Pierre, SD – South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors on Thursday for hitting and killing a pedestrian with his car.
Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Sovell told reporters on Feb. 18 that Ravnsborg has been charged with operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile device, driving outside a lane, and careless driving, NBC News reported.
Sovell said there was no proof the attorney general was impaired when he struck 55-year-old Joseph Boever with his 2011 Ford Taurus.
She said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Ravnsborg with a more serious office like vehicular homicide or manslaughter, NBC News reported.
The tragic incident occurred on Sept. 12, 2020 while Boever was walking down the side of U.S. Highway 14 carrying a light, according to the crash report.
He had crashed his truck into a ditch on the side of that road earlier in the evening and gotten a ride home from his cousin, NBC News reported.
Later that night, Boever was walking back to his truck to get something when he was fatally struck.
Ravnsborg contacted the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office and told them he thought he had hit a deer, according to NBC News.
Boever’s body was found on the side of the road the next day.
“It was a very dark night, this was in rural area,” Sovell said. “It’s not well lit by any artificial means.”
The crash report said that Ravnsborg was “distracted” when his car went onto the shoulder of the highway and hit the pedestrian at 67 mph, NBC News reported.
It also said that there weren’t any “contributing circumstances” that would make Boever in any way responsible for his own death.
If convicted, the attorney general of South Dakota is facing maximum penalties of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Boever’s cousin, Victor Nemec, told NBC News that he was furious that Ravnsborg hadn’t been charged with vehicular homicide.
“It doesn’t surprise me one bit, but it does disappoint me,” Nemec said. “This state is well-known nationwide for being lenient when it comes to elected officials getting in trouble.”
But Sovell defended her handling of the investigation and promised she had shielded her office and its investigators from political influence, NBC News reported.
She said a defendant has to be under the influence of alcohol to qualify for the state’s narrowly-defined homicide charges.
“There was a very, very thorough investigation conducted for every step that was taken by him in the hours preceding and nothing was indicative of him being under the influence of any alcohol or drugs,” the prosecutor said.
Sovell also said manslaughter wouldn’t apply because it required more reckless behavior than what the attorney general had demonstrated, NBC News reported.
She said that while Ravnsborg was charged with being on the phone in his car, the usage occurred well before the fatal crash, according to phone records.
The prosecutor said both of the attorney general’s devices were shown to be locked for at least a minute prior to when he killed Boever, NBC News reported.
It’s considered likely that the dead man’s family will sue the state’s top law enforcement officer who ran him over.
“This is a tragic accident which took the life of Mr. Boever way too soon,” Beadle County State’s Attorney Michael Moore told reporters. “The victim’s remedy is in civil court, not criminal court.”