South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg Faces Republican Revolt on Impeachment Over Killing Joe Boever

If South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg long seemed almost certain to avoid any real consequences for the fatal to pedestrians in 2020Looks like he’s facing a real threat.

Not for his freedom, but for his political career. And the danger doesn’t just come from his arch-enemy Governor Kristi Noembut from a growing group of GOPs of his own, who dominates the state legislature and faces a major step next week in deciding Should he be impeached?.

Republican Representative Charlie Hoffman told the Daily Beast on Friday he had been “front of the fence” about whether to impeach Ravnsborg for killing Joe Boever two years ago, but was now determined to do so. so. A presentation from South Dakota Highway Patrol soldiers last Wednesday provided new details about how a reckless Ravnsborg driver was changed his mind, Hoffman said.

“After a long period of time Mr. Boever’s body was in Mr. AG’s car with his head inside the window of Mr. AG’s car, and then flew out into the middle of the lane behind Mr. AG’s car, leaving behind Mr. AG’s car. bone fragments on the road and slide in. ditch at 65 mph, my mindset has changed,” he told The Daily Beast on Friday morning. “I now have irrefutable evidence that AG knew exactly what he hit and lied to investigators and the Hyde County sheriff.”

When reached for comment, Mike Deaver of Salt Lake City, who served as a spokesman for Ravnsborg, did not directly address the growing pressure facing AG.

“As for the legal process, for those working to make sure the system is fair and just and for the family, AG Ravnsborg has not spoken publicly about the courts or current proceedings,” said Deaver. speak. “He believes in the rule of law, in the people and processes that led to the current conclusions. The Attorney General has advanced the work of the state and will continue to support the process and elected officials guiding this in the legislature. “

South Dakota Highway Patrol soldiers John Berndt and Sergeant Kevin Kinney both said they believe Ravnsborg was out of the northbound lane and on the side of the road when he attacked and killed Boever shortly before 10. :25 p.m. Saturday, September 12, 2020. Ravnsborg spoke at the Lincoln Day Dinner, an annual meeting of the Republican Party, in Redfield, SD, that night, and was returning to Pierre, state capital.

After the collision, Ravnsborg dialed 911, saying he hit something “in the middle of the road”, but didn’t know what he hit. It was later revealed that Boever’s face pierced Ravnsborg’s windshield, and that his broken eyeglasses were found inside the vehicle.

Soldiers said Boever was at least 100 feet above the vehicle before he was placed on the side of the road, one leg severed. He died on impact. Ravnsborg insists he didn’t know who or what he hit at first, but law enforcement officials investigating the crash cast doubt on it.

“The impact area was so far away from the roadway that it took him a long time to come to a stop, as we described,” Berndt said. “The amount of evidence found in the vehicle and around the crash site – we don’t know what happened, we just know it’s not normal.”

Boever’s body was not officially discovered that night. Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek, who lives nearby, answered the 911 call, and admitted in a 2020 interview with investigators that he didn’t look much at the scene. Volek, who died in November 2021 while visiting a friend in North Carolina, lent Ravnsborg his personal car to complete the roughly one-hour drive back to Pierre.

The next day, the attorney general returned to the scene and reported the discovery of Boever’s body. Specifically, he told the sheriff, who alerted state officials. The fatal crash immediately became a major issue in South Dakota and made national news.

After a months-long criminal investigation, Ravnsborg – who never even appeared in court – was charged with only three misdemeanors. As part of the plea agreement, he did not contest two minor charges, was fined $1,000, paid $3,000 in court fees. and was ordered to encourage safe driving. He reaches an undisclosed agreement with Boever’s widow.

Governor Noem led the effort to remove Ravnsborg from office, even though they were members of the same party — and Ravnsborg posted a photo of them together on his 2022 reelection website. Her Chief of Staff asked him to take leave after the accident, but he refused. She then called for his resignation or asked the legislature to impeach him.

Instead, he’s holding a gun for another four years.

The impeachment hearings were originally scheduled for February 2021, only to be halted after Noem released two videos of Ravnsborg giving a lengthy interview with North Dakota Criminal Investigation Bureau agents.

They have helped make the case to maintain some fairness, ever since the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation reported it to the attorney general. (South Dakota Highway Patrol agents who were critical reported to Public Safety Secretary Craig Price, a Noem appointee, who said he believed Ravnsborg was inadequate. capacity to hold office.)

Impeachment proceedings continued into the 2022 legislative session, and House Speaker Spencer Gosch appointed a nine-member special committee to investigate the fatal crash. North Dakota agents told the committee they actually believe Ravnsborg knew he assaulted a man on September 12, 2020.

However, on March 28, after meeting in secret for more than three hours, the committee voted 6-2 not to recommend impeachment.

But a full report from the Department of Public Safety on the story was dropped on April 4. It reveal more information about Ravnsborg’s driving record. Perhaps most astonishing: two incidents were almost revealed to law enforcement vehicles, as detailed in reports from the officers involved. That, coupled with the Highway Patrol briefing two days later, seems to have breathed new life into the effort to topple AG.

Representative Hoffman said he has attacked animals several times, including deer, rabbits, skunks, raccoons, kangaroos, pigeons, pheasants and partridges. He was always very clear about what happened.

“I knew right away what was happening to me,” Hoffman told The Daily Beast. “I know all the time.”

Hoffman was among a number of state representatives who told The Daily Beast that the top lawyer faced the prospect of legal dismissal.

To impeach Ravnsborg and force it to trial in the state Senate despite the committee’s recommendation against it, 36 of the 70 representatives had to vote on impeachment in the first hearing in state history. That would force a trial in the state Senate.

State Representative Fred Deutsch, a conservative Republican from Florence, told The Daily Beast he now also supports impeachment.

“This was probably the hardest decision I had to make in my life,” he told The Daily Beast.

GOP Representative Will Mortenson of Pierre has been impeached since the legislature first addressed the matter in February 2021. He has told reporters several times that he feels the attorney general must removed, and Deutsch said he was told Mortenson, a Republican, was prepared. to call for impeachment on Tuesday. Mortenson did not respond to a request for comment.

“I hope there will be a vote,” Deutsch said. “I really don’t know how the vote will go other than I expect it to be over.”

Rapid City Representative Tim Goodwin is the head of the House’s GOP majority. He also supported impeachment for a while, and said he thought Ravnsborg knew exactly what happened that night – “beyond the shadow of a doubt.”

Even if they don’t publicly advertise their plans to vote on impeachment, many Republicans are increasingly open about how uncertain they will be. The air around them suggests that the attorney general’s firewall of support for the GOP — even beyond previous skeptics — may be in jeopardy.

Representative Tim Reed, a Brookings Republican, told The Daily Beast he’d like to see a vote on impeachment, even if he hasn’t made his own decision yet.

“If articles of impeachment are brought before the full House of Representatives, the wording of the resolution will be crucial in my final decision. I believe articles of impeachment should be brought to the full House for a vote,” Reed said.

“AG’s actions surrounding the accident involved me and most of the people of South Dakota, and AG is responsible,” he added.

Fort Pierre reps Mike Weisgram are also grappling with the decision.

Weisgram told The Daily Beast: “This matter has been and is very difficult to come to a definite (and continue) decision. “I have read the evidence provided by the Vendor Selection Committee, watched the public safety presentation, asked many attorneys and law enforcement friends, talked to my legislative friends, and asked Pray for direction on my impending impeachment vote. At times, I thought my mind was already decided, but as I pondered and challenged my conclusions, I backed off.”

Likewise, Congressman Carl Perry of Aberdeen also struggled.

Perry told The Daily Beast he’s “online” about impeachment — and that he told a voter who called him on Friday that he’ll decide after hearing the presentations at floor on Tuesday.

Less shockingly, Democrats responded to the Daily Beast with a series of state representatives — there are eight Dems in the 70-member House of Representatives — all of whom support Ravnsborg’s impeachment.

Representative Ryan Cwach, a Yankton attorney who serves on the House of Representatives investigative committee, voted 6-2 on the party’s line not to recommend impeachment.

Cwach wrote the minority report in favor of removing the attorney general and said he believed all Democrats would vote to impeach Ravnsborg.

Mission Representative Shawn Bordeaux, who represents District 26A, said he supports impeachment — but is not optimistic Ravnsborg will face that penalty.

“I guess the House is not going to impeach AG. I support impeachment,” Bordeaux said. “I am ready to hear any information on this matter and have been waiting to make a decision, so I have not taken sides. I’m not sure about the other members of the House and I don’t lobby for anyone. I’m sure the recent reports of driving records and videos of him rolling over won’t help him, and it will help see how he behaves. “

One thing that could really help the attorney general is a separate battle between South Dakotans, with Governor Noem and Speaker Spencer Gosch engaged in a very public feud.

Rep. Jennifer Keintz, a Democrat from Eden, told The Daily Beast: “The contingent of Republicans who have always opposed Governor Noem’s agenda could well oppose impeachment because she supports it. for it.

That is, the investigation of a top law enforcement official that seems to play fast and loose with the law does not play out in the abstract. It is just one front in a series of inter-stage GOP feuds in an effectively functioning state under one-party rule.

But Representative Goodwin, a longtime GOP impeachment advocate, is upbeat.

“We get 28 [Republicans] and we’re ready to go,” Goodwin told The Daily Beast in a phone interview Thursday. “I hope we will. I think it’s an easy, undisputed decision.”

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