South Dakota attorney general's impeachment trial begins following fatal 2020 crash

AG Jason Ravnsborg told 911 operators on night of Sept. 12, 2020, he struck "something;' victim turned out to be a pedestrian

Published: June 21, 2022 1:49pm

Updated: June 21, 2022 3:31pm

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg lied to investigators and abused the power of his office after he struck and killed a pedestrian on the side of a road, prosecutors argued Tuesday at the opening of Ravnsborg's impeachment trial.

Ravnsborg arguing that removing their client from office over what he has maintained was an accident would improperly undo the will of the voters who placed him in office.

The Republican official is facing two charges in the state's first impeachment trial. He recently announced that he will not be seeking a second term for his office. Investigators, in addition to several lawmakers and the victim's family, have questioned the attorney general's account of what happened following the 2020 crash.

State senators may also vote on whether Ravnsborg will be permitted to hold future office.

The impeachment trial process is expected to take two days and will put to rest the chapter of South Dakota politics that has stretched through the pandemic and pitted South Dakota Republicans against one another.

Among them is Gov. Kristi Noem whose persistence in trying to have Ravnsborg removed from office has raised questions from some in her own party.

Noem called for Ravnsborg to resign and publicly endorsed his predecessor for election as his replacement.

Ravnsborg has maintained his innocence, despite ongoing questions about inconsistent statements he gave to crash investigators.

He says the impeachment proceeding will be a chance to clear himself. Last year, he resolved the criminal case by pleading guilty to a set of traffic misdemeanors and was subsequently fined. In September, Ravnsborg agreed to an undisclosed settlement with victim's widow.

On September 12, 2020, Ravnsborg was driving home from a political fundraiser after sundown when he struck "something," he told 911 operators. He later said he thought it may have been a deer or other animal. The state's top cop also said that neither he nor the country sheriff who arrived at the scene knew he had struck and killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever until the next morning.

The GOP-led state Senate, comprised of 32 Republicans and three Democrats, will hear from impeachment prosecutors, crash investigators, defense attorneys and some of Ravnsborg's former staff.

It will take two-dozen senators to convict Ravnsborg on either of the two articles of impeachment – malfeasance and committing a crime that caused death. The first charge indicates that the attorney general intentionally misled investigators and abused the power of his office.

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