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South Dakota attorney general impeached over fatal car crash

(PIERRE, S.D.) — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was impeached Tuesday by lawmakers in the state House of Representatives over the 2020 crash he was involved in that left a 55-year-old man dead.

The house voted 36-31 to impeach Ravnsborg and charged him with committing crimes that caused someone’s death, making “numerous misrepresentations” to law enforcement officers after the crash and using his office to navigate the criminal investigation, according to the articles of impeachment.

Ravnsborg was driving back from a dinner party hosted by the state Republican Party on Sept. 12, 2020, when he struck Joseph Boever, 55, who was walking on the road, a mile west of Highmore, South Dakota, police said. Ravnsborg called 911 and claimed he thought he hit an animal and drove home in another car, investigators said.

Boever’s body was found the next morning.

“When we’re dealing with the life of one of your citizens, I think that weighed heavily on everyone,” state Rep. Will Mortenson, who introduced the articles of impeachment, said in a statement following the vote.

Several members of Boever’s family, including his widow, Jennifer Boever, and his mother, Dorothy Boever, were in attendance during the vote. The family brought a picture of Joseph and Jennifer Boever on their wedding day.

“We were happy, and for this man to come along and take it away … this is just inexcusable,” Jennifer Boever told reporters after the vote. “I’m glad that we got the vote here, and now we just need the Senate’s help on this.”

Investigators determined that Ravnsborg was distracted while he was driving and his car crossed completely onto the highway shoulder before hitting Boever, who was carrying a flashlight. The investigators said officers didn’t believe some of Ravnsborg’s initial statements.

In August, Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to a pair of misdemeanor traffic charges related to the crash and was not sentenced to any prison time. He rejected several calls for his resignation from lawmakers, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a fellow Republican.

Ravnsborg will be temporarily removed from office pending an impeachment trial in the South Dakota state Senate. No date has been set for the trial. However, the state constitution says the Senate must wait at least 20 days before impeachment hearings can begin.

“The House of Representatives voted, and I respect the process, but I look forward to the Senate trial, where I believe I will be vindicated,” Ravnsborg, who is the first state official to be impeached in South Dakota history, said in a statement.

Prior to the vote, Ravnsborg sent letters to lawmakers before the vote urging them to exonerate him, the Argus Leader reported.

“Setting such a low precedent will affect many members of the Legislature who have been convicted of Class 2 and Class 1 misdemeanors,” he wrote.

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