Pressure Mounts for Attorney General Ravnsborg to Resign as Lawmakers Present Articles of Impeachment

Jonathan Ellis
Joe sneve
Danielle ferguson

| Sioux Falls Argus Leader


Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s future as the state’s chief prosecutor took two major blows Tuesday after Gov. Kristi Noem said he should step down and House of Representatives lawmakers began impeachment proceedings.

The events followed last week’s charges against Ravnsborg in the September 12, 2020 death of Joseph Boever, 55, who was struck by Ravnsborg while walking down Highway 14 west of Highmore.

Calling for his resignation, Noem said more materials related to the investigation would be released to the public. Videos of the investigators’ interviews with Ravnsborg were expected to be released on the same day.

“Now that the investigation has been closed and the charges have been brought, I think the Attorney General should resign,” Noem said. “I have reviewed the material we are publishing, starting today, and I encourage others to review it as well.”

Following Noem’s announcement, House Republicans gathered for a closed-door caucus session that was so late that the start of Tuesday’s House session was delayed by more than an hour. After they emerged, Rep. Will Mortenson, a Republican from Pierre, announced that he had filed two articles of impeachment against Ravnsborg.

“This is not political and it is not personal,” said Mortenson, who is an attorney serving his first term in the Legislature. “Once again, I don’t think that Attorney General Ravnsborg belongs to the prison, but I know that he no longer belongs to the Attorney General.

Plus: Was Jason Ravnsborg reckless or careless? Prosecutors had to decide

‘It’s about doing what’s right for South Dakota’

Mortenson’s resolution was co-sponsored by House Republican and Democratic leaders, Majority Leader Kent Peterson of Salem and Minority Leader Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls.

“This is not about parties or politics,” Peterson said in a statement. “It’s about doing the right thing for South Dakota. We must keep our elected leaders at a high level. In this case, the attorney general has not met that standard, and we owe it to the people to bring these items. “

Smith said what happened was a tragedy for everyone involved.

“However, that cannot deter us from fulfilling our duties,” Smith said. “The attorney general has lost the trust of the people of South Dakota and should be removed from office for the betterment of the state.”

A Ravnsborg spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday, but said Monday that Ravnsborg had no intention of resigning.

Ravnsborg has not spoken publicly since prosecutors announced last week the charges he will face after a five-month investigation into the accident.

Ravnsborg was returning from a political dinner in Redfield when authorities say his car veered onto the shoulder of Highway 14, striking Boever. Ravnsborg’s vehicle was badly damaged and, after it stopped, he reported the accident to dispatch, saying he did not know what he had hit.

Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek responded and the two searched for what they believed to be a deer. Volek presented Ravnsborg with a deer tag for his car insurance and then loaned the attorney general a personal vehicle to return to Pierre.

Ravnsborg stopped at the scene the next morning as he returned Volek’s car. It was then that he discovered Boever’s body.

North Dakota law enforcement assisted in the investigation to protect the investigation from perceptions of conflict of interest. The investigation was then turned over to a group of state attorneys to decide what charges Ravnsborg should face.

In the end, the attorney general escaped charges for more serious crimes after state prosecutors filed three misdemeanor charges, including careless driving.

Articles: Ravnsborg’s actions were ‘improper’

Although Ravnsborg was not charged with a felony, the South Dakota Constitution includes a number of general provisions that allow impeachment of a state constitutional official, including misdemeanors.

In addition to the misdemeanor charges, the impeachment ruling says that Ravnsborg “undertook improper actions by the attorney general” during the investigation report and the resulting investigation.

“Jason Ravnsborg’s statements and actions did not meet the standard of the attorney general’s office,” the resolution says.

Under the state Constitution, Ravnsborg would be impeached if a simple majority in the House voted for impeachment. A vote for impeachment would trigger a trial in the Senate. If two-thirds of the senators voted to convict, Ravnsborg would be removed from office and barred from holding another public office in the state.

No elected state official has been charged, although there were calls in 1935 for the impeachment of Governor Tom Berry by union officials after the Democratic governor used troops to break up a strike at the John Morrell plant in Sioux Falls.

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