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South Dakota senators remain silent on AG impeachment trial

SIOUX FALLS, SD – State senators are silent on how they will vote The first impeachment trial in South Dakota next week as they weigh whether to remove them Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg for his conduct in connection with a fatal car accident in 2020.

The Associated Press asked each of the 35 members of the Republican-controlled Senate if they had made a decision on the two impeachment trials that will begin hearing Tuesday. None of the 20 respondents indicated that they had made a decision. Most compared themselves to juries or judges who must give a fair hearing in an ordeal that has fractured the state’s Republican Party and roiled public opinion.

“Everyone keeps an objective mind and comes into it with their eyes wide open,” said Republican Senator Erin Tobin.

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It will take 24 senators, or two-thirds, to convict Ravnsborg, a first-term Republican who is not seeking re-election, on one of two counts: commission of crimes that caused the death of pedestrian Joseph Boever and subsequent misconduct.

The circumstances of the two-day trial may have already brought this to the attention of some senators as they review the crash investigation files and material from the House impeachment inquiry. Ravnsborg’s defense didn’t submit any documents, so everything they’ve looked at probably works in favor of the prosecution.

“It would be difficult for anyone to look at this information and not come to a conclusion,” Republican Senator Michael Rohl said. “We saw no defenses.”

Rohl said he hasn’t made up his mind yet. Most of his questions are aimed at Ravnsborg, who has not said if he will testify.

Other senators had less time to do their homework investigating the crash. Republican Senator Ryan Maher said he was already “excited” because he had to take a two-day break from running a new venture to spend long hours in a Senate chamber that would likely bake in the summer heat. The legislature usually meets in the winter months, which means that air conditioning or cooling ventilation is no longer necessary.

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“It’s going to be hot and we’re just going to sit and sweat,” Maher said.

He said he didn’t know how he would vote, but said if Ravnsborg were convicted he would likely vote to have him barred from any future state office “just because he’s wasting my time now when he should have resigned.”

Other senators said they look forward to a trial as a public reckoning over the crash details that have emerged fits and starts in the 21 months since Ravnsborg punched Boever while driving home from a Republican convention.

Ravnsborg said he didn’t know he had killed a man until he returned to the crash site the next day and discovered Boever’s body. He first told a 911 dispatcher he was in the middle of the road and hit “something.” He later said he thought he had hit a deer or other animal, insisting that neither he nor a sheriff who came to the scene could find what was hit in the dark. Investigators said they doubted some of Ravnsborg’s statements.

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“I’m going to try to understand what really happened,” Republican Senator Arthur Rusch said in an email. “How did he get on his shoulder – how didn’t he see Mr Boever – how didn’t he see his face in his windscreen. How could neither the general secretary nor the sheriff see the body as they walked right past it.”

During the House impeachment inquiry, Ravnsborg’s defense focused on the constitutional grounds for the impeachment and whether the two traffic offenses were committed He pleaded for no competition last year, were no reason to accuse him. He has also accused Gov. Kristi Noem of “politically arming” the crash to oust him from office.

noem impeachment proceedings initiated a long. After her government pleaded for his removal, impeachment squeaked with a single vote from the House of Representatives. In the Senate, where it takes a two-thirds majority to condemn Ravnsborg, lawmakers have usually sided with the governor.

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Political realities will certainly concern senators, said Jon Schaff, a professor of political science at Northern State University.

“You have to be naïve to conclude that there isn’t at least one political element going on,” he said. “What do the voters think and what does the governor think?”

Republican Senator VJ Smith said he was careful not to comment on the trial out of fairness, despite being asked about it by dozens of people in his community. But he said he is reminded of Boever’s death every time he passes the spot where he died on US Highway 14.

“It never really leaves you,” he said. “We are all looking for an ending to a tragic situation.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/16/south-dakota-senators-silent-on-ag-impeachment-vote/ South Dakota senators remain silent on AG impeachment trial

Sarah Y. Kim

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