PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Senate convicted Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg in an impeachment trial Tuesday over fatally striking a pedestrian with his car nearly two years ago.
The vote to convict Ravnsborg, which triggered his immediate removal from office, came after hours of testimony, questioning and closing arguments for his role in the death of Joe Boever in September 2020.
Immediately following the crash, Ravnsborg told a 911 dispatcher he wasn’t sure what his vehicle had hit, believing it might have been a deer. It wasn’t until the next morning that Ravnsborg said he returned and found Boever’s body.
The group of lawmakers needed a two-thirds majority vote or more for each of the two separate impeachment articles, including crimes causing death and malfeasance in office, which were passed by the South Dakota House of Representatives earlier this year.
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The Senate voted 24-9, out of 35, on the first article of impeachment of crimes causing death and for Ravnsborg’s removal. The Senate voted 31-2 on the second article, malfeasance in office, which alleged he misled investigators.
The Senate has also voted to permanently disqualify Ravnsborg, a Republican, from “holding any office of trust or profit” in South Dakota.
Ravnsborg has been suspended from his duties since those articles were passed down in April. The AG’s seat is up for election in November.
The first impeachment trial in the South Dakota Senate’s history capped nearly two years of uncertainty around the attorney general’s office and Ravnsborg, who was in his first term at the time of the crash happened.
Ravnsborg had been traveling from a political function in Redfield to his Pierre home. While passing through Hyde County, Ravnsborg’s vehicle collided with Boever, 55, who police determined had been walking beside the roadway.
With Ravnsborg in charge of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, which typically investigates matters involving public officials and law enforcement, the highway patrol brought in out-of-state investigators to examine crash circumstances.
They determined Ravnsborg had been using his phone during his drive that evening, but not at the time of the crash. However, his vehicle was outside the lane of travel at the time of impact, contrary to what Ravnsborg had reported the night of the crash and in subsequent statements.
Police believed Ravnsborg to be distracted at the time of the crash but what that distraction was has never been determined. Ravnsborg has not provided explanation as to why his vehicle was outside the lane of travel.
READ THE CRIMINAL COMPLAINT:More on the case against South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg
TIMELINE:Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s journey from night of fatal crash to impeachment
Ravnsborg was convicted of a pair of misdemeanor traffic violations – a lane violation and using an electronic device while driving – in August 2021. Neither charges amounted to criminal culpability for Boever’s death.
The South Dakota House of Representatives launched its own investigation into Ravnsborg’s conduct in November 2021. In March, the House Select Committee on Investigation recommended the attorney general not be impeached.
But 36 of the 70 members of the state House disagreed, and instead voted on April 12 to impeach Ravnsborg on the basis that he’d been convicted of crimes stemming from the crash, that he was not truthful with law enforcement in the aftermath of Boever’s death and that he misused his position as attorney general.