South Dakota Senate removes Attorney General Ravnsborg from office over 2020 vehicle fatality
Senate vote to sustain two articles of impeachment means Republicans can’t hold office again.
The South Dakota Senate voted Tuesday to sustain two articles of impeachment against Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg and remove him from office, making him the state's first constitutional officer to be impeached.
The Senate voted 24-9 on count one which involved crimes related to the death of a man he struck with his vehicle in 2020. The vote was 31-2 on the second count which involves malfeasance related to how he represented himself after the incident.
The Senate also voted unanimously to bar Ravnsborg from ever holding public office in South Dakota again.
The attorney general said he did not know what he hit and left the scene of the wreck in Hyde County in September 2020. Joseph Boever's body was discovered when Ravnsborg returned to the scene the next day. He pleaded no contest to two traffic offenses and paid a fine.
Ravnsborg did not testify during the hearing. His attorneys said different standards applied to impeachment proceedings.
"I will leave you with a reminder of what the U.S. House Judiciary Committee said in the context of the Nixon impeachment," said Ross Garber, an attorney from Washington in his closing arguments. "Impeachment is a constitutional remedy addressed to serious offenses against the government.
”Impeachment is directed to address constitutional wrongs that subvert the structure of government or undermine the integrity of office and even the constitution itself... Members of the Senate, that standard, those principles, have not been met, not even close."
Prosecutors accused Ravnsborg of lying when he said he didn't know he hit a person and giving multiple accounts about whether he was off the road and on his phone at the time of the wreck.
"I've heard better lies from five-year olds," said Mark Vargo, the Pennington County state attorney in closing remarks for the prosecution.
Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion, was one of seven senators who voted "no" on count one and "yes" on count two.
"I am concerned about whether the attorney general misused his office as attorney general," Rusch said. "Obviously he's a poor driver. There's been numerous incidents where he's avoided responsibility for his poor driving by identifying himself at attorney general."
Gov. Kristi Noem will appoint someone to serve out the remainder of Ravnsborg's term. Ravnsborg was not seeking another term in office.
The South Dakota Republican Party will choose this week between former attorney general Marty Jackley and David Natvig, who serves as director of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, as their nominee for the November general election.