UPDATED 7:40 PM PT – Thursday, February 25, 2021
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) said she believes the state attorney general should resign following charges linked to a fatal car accident in September 2020. The incident has haunted Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who faces three misdemeanor charges in connection with the death.
Authorities said Ravnsborg was driving home from a political dinner when his car drifted off the side of the road and hit 55-year-old Joseph Boever. Evidence showed he wasn’t drinking or on his phone at the time of the crash, but he used his phone one minute earlier.
Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the Attorney General should resign. I have reviewed the material we are releasing, starting today, and I encourage others to review it as well.
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) February 23, 2021
Ravnsborg claimed he thought he hit a large animal and didn’t know he’d killed a person until he visited the scene the next day. Investigators said he wasn’t clear about what caused him to veer off the road and was unsure about the details of the crash. He insisted he never saw Boever, even though officers pointed out the victim’s glasses were found inside the car.
“But I believe I did not do anything wrong,” Ravnsborg said. “And I’ve obviously replayed it in my mind about a thousand times.”
Ravnsborg could face 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for each charge, which included careless driving and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone. Authorities said the evidence didn’t support charges of vehicular homicide or manslaughter, but said his conduct was negligent at best.
“Our high courts have explained that for someone’s conduct to be deemed reckless, it’s more than just a mere ordinary negligent standard,” Hyde County Assistant State’s Attorney Emily Sovell stated. “Operation of a motor vehicle in violation of a law is not in and of itself sufficient to constitute the recklessness required for that manslaughter statute.”
Boever’s family members said they were disappointed, but not surprised Ravnsborg does not face more serious charges.
“I knew that South Dakota state law was very weak on this point,” Joseph Boever’s cousin, Nick Nemec, noted. “And I’ve been saying for months that I was afraid the charge would be something on the order of crossing the white line.”
Noem said after reviewing the evidence and videos related to the case, she believes Ravnsborg should resign. Following her statement, a Republican House lawmaker announced he’d filed two Articles of Impeachment against the attorney general, saying the move was not political or personal, but only that Ravnsborg does not belong in the office anymore.
A spokesman for the attorney general said he has no intention of resigning. According to reports, no elected statewide official has ever been impeached in South Dakota’s history.