Joe Boever was stranded on the side of the road after his truck was disabled in a ditch on Saturday, September 12, 2020. He was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who has now been sentenced with three misdemeanor charges for the fatal hit-and-run.
Ravnsborg, the 44-year-old Republican South Dakota Attorney General, claimed he thought he had hit a deer around 10:30 p.m. that night before returning to the scene of the incident just outside Highmore, South Dakota the next morning to discover Boever’s body still on the side of the road, according to the New York Times.
At the scene, Boever’s white Ford F-150 pickup truck with damage to the front end was down the road from his body, in the grass ditch off the side of the road, having somehow ended up there prior to the hit-and-run.
The charges against Ravnsborg include careless driving, failure to stay in his lane, and use of a mobile device while driving — though the investigation revealed that he had not been using either of his phones in the minutes before and during the incident.
Boever’s family is reportedly upset with the outcome of the investigation and the charges filed, according to the New York Times:
“I think he was given preferential treatment,” Victor Nemec, a first cousin of Mr. Boever, said of Mr. Ravnsborg in an interview on Thursday. “This state has a long tradition of going easy on their elected officials when they commit wrongdoings. There’s a definite good old boy network out here in how the state operates.”
Mr. Nemec said Mr. Boever’s widow was expected to file a lawsuit against Mr. Ravnsborg. Mr. Boever had worked stints as a nurse’s aide and at a grocery store, but he had most recently been employed helping his cousin haul hay on his cattle farm.
Ravnsborg’s three charges each threaten up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, or a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and $1,500. South Dakota does not have a negligent homicide law, which complicates manslaughter charges in traffic cases with no strong evidence of drug or alcohol use or reckless driving, according to state prosecutors.
Investigators reported Ravnsborg called 911 at the scene on Sunday morning, provided bloodwork for toxicology which showed no sign of drug or alcohol use, and handed over both of his phones which were proven to have been screen-locked in the minute leading up to the impact with Boever. Ravnsborg was driving his Ford Taurus at 67 mph down U.S. Highway 14 at the time of the impact.
Back in September, the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation was brought in for the official investigation to avoid any conflict of interest with South Dakota’s equivalent division, which is under the authority of Attorney General Ravnsborg himself. South Dakota Secretary of Public Safety Craig Price was brought in for the southern state’s involvement.
Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem announced that she was “directing the Department of Public Safety to share additional details of the investigation with the public within the next week,” following the announcement of charges on Thursday.
Beadle County State Attorney Michael Moore briefed Boever’s family on the charges and told the Times that they “...obviously don’t like our decision in this case. As we all know, victims don’t make that decision.” He also claimed that the “investigation was second to none.” Ravnsborg issued a short statement, saying, “I appreciate, more than ever, that the presumption of innocence placed within our legal system continues to work.”