PIERRE, SD – South Dakota senators on Tuesday begin hearing evidence for the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, whose account of a fatal traffic accident in 2020 caused detectives, some lawmakers and the victim’s family to question its veracity.
Ravnsborg, a Republican who recently announced that he will not seek a second term, faces two counts in the state’s first-ever impeachment trial, with conviction on either one triggering immediate impeachment. The senators can also vote on whether to bar Ravnsborg from holding office in the future.
In any case, the result will close a chapter that has roiled state politics, pitting Governor Kristi Noem against Ravnsborg and some in her own party who have objected their aggressive pursuit of his removal.
Ravnsborg was driving home from a political fundraiser on a state highway in central South Dakota after dark on September 12, 2020 when his car “hit something” afterwards, according to a transcript of his 911 call. He later said it could have been a deer or some other animal.
Ravnsborg said Neither he nor the county sheriff who came to the scene knew he had hit and killed a man – 55-year-old Joseph Boever – until Ravnsborg returned to the scene the next morning.
Investigators said they doubted some of Ravnsborg’s statements. In previous testimonies to lawmakers, they said they found the attorney general had walked right by Boever’s body and the flashlight Boever was carrying – which was still lit the next morning – when looking around the scene the night of the crash.
They also identified what they believed to be minor gaffes in Ravnsborg’s statements, such as when he said he turned around at the scene of the accident and “saw him,” before quickly correcting himself and saying, “I didn’t see him.” And they suggested Boever’s face had come through Ravnsborg’s windshield because his glasses were found in the car.
Ravnsborg has claimed he did nothing wrong and saw the impeachment as an opportunity to exonerate himself. He solved the criminal case last year Plea for no contestation of two traffic offencesincluding illegally changing lanes and using a phone while driving, and was fined by a judge.
The Republican-controlled Senate will hear from prosecutors, defense attorneys, accident investigators and former Ravnsborg employees.
Twenty-four senators, or two-thirds of the panel’s 35 members, are neededto convict Ravnsborg on one of two counts: committing a crime resulting in death and misconduct.
The latter accuses him of misleading investigators and abusing the power of his office. Investigators said Ravnsborg asked a state criminal investigation agent what accident investigators could find on his phone. He said he was just looking for factual information.
Noem urged Ravnsborg to resign soon after the crash and later urged lawmakers to begin impeachment proceedings. Noem also publicly endorsed Ravnsborg’s predecessor, Republican Marty Jackley, for election as his successor. If Ravnsborg is forced out of office, the governor will fill the post on an interim basis until the new Attorney General elected in November is sworn in.
Ravnsborg has argued that the governor, who has positioned herself for a possible 2024 bid for the White House, partially pushed for his removal for investigating ethics complaints against Noem.
Ravnborg in September agreed to a secret settlement with Boever’s widow.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/21/south-dakota-impeachment-trial-will-probe-ags-fatal-crash/ South Dakota’s impeachment trial will investigate AG’s fatal crash