Pierre, SD – The South Dakota House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to launch a probe to determine whether South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg should be impeached after he pleaded guilty to running over and killing a pedestrian.
A majority of the Republican-led State House of Representatives voted to have a committee investigate and prepare a report with recommendations for what to do about the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, NBC News reported.
The committee handling the investigation is made up of seven Republicans and two Democrats, a combination of Ravnsborg’s supporters and biggest critics.
The investigation is expected to take weeks, NBC News reported.
The state constitution allows that elected officials like the attorney general can be impeached for “corrupt conduct, malfeasance or misdemeanor in office.”
However, no state official in South Dakota has ever been impeached and committee members joked that they’re not entire sure how to do it, NBC News reported.
“Our first meeting is literally to sit down, go through the constitution, go through case law, to get an idea,” South Dakota State House Speaker Spencer Gosch said.
The tragic incident occurred on Sept. 12, 2020 while 55-year-old Joseph Boever was walking down the side of U.S. Highway 14 carrying a light, according to the crash report.
Boever 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 by a truck driven by the attorney general.
Ravnsborg contacted the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office and told them he thought he had hit a deer, according to NBC News.
He said that he and the sheriff walked around and looked on the side of the road together but did not find anything, The Washington Post reported.
The attorney general returned to the crash scene with his chief of staff in the morning and they found Boever’s dead body on the side of the road.
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.
The state released videos of two three-hour-long interviews that detectives conducted with Ravnsborg after Boever’s body was found.
The video showed that detectives had told the attorney general that Boever’s reading glasses had been found inside his 2011 Ford Taurus, The Washington Post reported.
“They’re Joe’s glasses, so that means his face came through your windshield,” a detective told Ravnsborg in the video.
The attorney general continued to deny that he had any idea he’d struck a person.
“His face was in your windshield, Jason,” the detective said. “Think about that.”
Ravnsborg said in the video he hadn’t seen the broken glasses in the car or on Boever, The Washington Post reported.
He claimed he hadn’t seen “anything” that night, but detectives argued that Boever had been carrying a big flashlight.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, called for the attorney general’s resignation after the details of the interviews with the detectives became public, the Argus Leader reported.
Later in the day, South Dakota House GOP members convened a closed-door meeting.
Afterwards, they announced that two articles of impeachment had been filed against Ravnsborg by his own party, the Argus Leader reported.
But in March, South Dakota’s House of Representatives voted to put the brakes on the impeachment process until after the criminal investigation and trial had played itself out, CBS News reported.
In August, Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to making an illegal lane change and using a phone while driving, NPR reported.
Each misdemeanor charged carried a possible maximum sentence of up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Circuit Judge John Brown fined the South Dakota attorney general $500 for each count, plus court costs of $3,742, according to NPR.
Brown also granted a request from Boever’s family and ordered Ravnsborg to “do a significant public service event” near the anniversary of his death for the next five years.
Ravnsborg released a statement after he was sentenced that blamed “partisan opportunists” who exploited the situation and “manufactured rumors, conspiracy theories and made statements in direct contradiction to the evidence all sides agreed upon,” NPR reported.
After the criminal process was concluded, state lawmakers began to gin up the impeachment process again and took the formal next step with the creation of the investigation committed on Nov. 9.
The lawmaker who first called for the attorney general’s impeachment, South Dakota State Representative Will Mortenson, has pushed to make the findings of the investigation public, NBC News reported.
“This is unprecedented in state history, which means we need to be thoughtful,” Mortenson said. “And keep in mind the public, the family of any victims here and the subject of impeachment as well.”