South Dakota Impeachment Trial Probing Fatal AG Crash | New Policies
By STEPHEN GROVES, Associated Press
PIERRE, SD (AP) — South Dakota senators on Tuesday began hearing evidence for the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, whose account of a fatal 2020 traffic accident led criminal investigators, some lawmakers and the victim’s family to question his sincerity.
Ravnsborg, a Republican who only recently announced he would not seek a second term, faces two counts in the state’s first-ever impeachment trial, the conviction of either another triggering immediate dismissal. Senators can also vote on whether to bar Ravnsborg from future office.
Either way, the outcome of a procedure that is expected to last two days will close a chapter that has upended state politics, pitting Republican Governor Kristi Noem against Ravnsborg and some members of her own party who are opposed to his aggressive pursuit of withdrawal.
Ravnsborg was driving home from a political fundraiser after dark on Sept. 12, 2020, on a state highway in central South Dakota when his car hit “something,” according to a transcript of his 911 call by the following. 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 — Joseph Boever, 55 — until Ravnsborg returned to the scene the next morning.
Investigators said they doubted some of Ravnsborg’s statements. In earlier testimony to lawmakers, they said they determined the attorney general walked right past Boever’s body and the flashlight Boever was carrying — still on the next morning — as he looked around the scene at night. of the accident.
They also identified what they believed to be small slips in Ravnsborg’s statements, such as when he said he turned around at the scene of the crash and ‘saw it’ before correcting himself. quickly and say, “I didn’t see it. And they suggested Boever’s face popped through Ravnsborg’s windshield because his glasses were found in the car.
Ravnsborg maintained that he had done nothing wrong and presented the impeachment trial as a chance to exonerate himself. He solved the criminal case last year by pleading no contest to two traffic offences, including illegally changing lanes and using a phone while driving, and was fined by a judge.
The GOP-controlled Senate, which has 32 Republican and three Democratic members, will hear from impeachment prosecutors, defense attorneys, crash investigators and former Ravnsborg staffers.
It will take 24 senators, or two-thirds of the body’s 35 members, to convict Ravnsborg on one of two articles of indictment: committing a crime causing death and a misdemeanor.
The latter alleges that he misled the investigators and abused the power of his office. Investigators said Ravnsborg asked an agent from the state Criminal Investigation Division what crash investigators could find on his cellphone. He said he was just looking for factual information.
Noem called on Ravnsborg to step down soon after the crash and then pressed lawmakers to pursue impeachment. Noem also publicly endorsed Ravnsborg’s predecessor, Republican Marty Jackley, to be elected as his replacement. If Ravnsborg is expelled, the governor will appoint an interim to fill the post until the new attorney general elected in November is sworn in.
Ravnsborg argued that the governor, who has positioned himself for a possible White House bid in 2024, pushed for his removal in part because he investigated ethics complaints against Noem.
Ravnsborg in September agreed to an undisclosed settlement with Boever’s widow.
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