Former South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is out of both a job and a career after he was convicted in an impeachment trial on Tuesday for a bizarre hit-and-run crash that left one man’s body on the side of the road for hours.
Ravnsborg will never be able to hold public office again after South Dakota lawmakers convicted him and removed him as attorney general. Ravnsborg was present at the trial, but did not speak in his own defense. His lawyers only questioned if the state senate had the authority to remove the attorney general over what really amounts (in their argument) to a traffic violation. Here’s a little about the so-called traffic violation that ended the life of Joe Boever on Sept. 12, 2020, from the the Daily Beast:
Boever was killed almost instantly after being struck, his right leg severed when hit by the attorney general’s private car. His body rode atop it, with his face busting through the windshield, and his broken glasses landing inside the vehicle.
The ousted attorney general has repeatedly said he didn’t see the man’s face inches from his own and had no idea what he had struck. Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek, who lived nearby, responded to a 911 call by Ravnsborg. He provided Ravnsborg with a car to drive, and the attorney general headed to Pierre.
At the time Ravnsborg told authorities he thought he had hit a deer and so drove home, only to discover the enormity of the crash the next day, when Ravnsborg returned to the scene of the supposed deer strike to find Boever’s body on the side of the road. Once police began investigating the crash (instead of hanging out cars to suspects) a slew of disturbing details came out.
Ravnsborg was reportedly scrolling through right-wing conspiracy and fake news websites when the crash occurred. It also seems Ravnsborg may have intended on not stopping that night and seems to have also seen the body of Boever on the side of the road while still insisting to 911 dispatchers that he hit a deer, according to the Daily Beast:
Instead of offering major revelations at the trial, prosecutors slammed Ravnsborg as a liar who fibbed about what happened on the night of the fatal crash—and again in the following months.
“We’ve heard better lies from 5-year-olds,” said prosecutor Mark Vargo.
Perhaps the sole bombshell at the trial was speculation offered by North Dakota Bureau of Investigation Agent Arnie Rummel that Ravnsborg may have contemplated fleeing the scene where he killed Joe Boever on U.S. Highway 14 on Sept. 12, 2020. Rummel and Agent Joe Arenz were brought in to investigate the fatal crash, since the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation reports to the attorney general.
Rummel said Tuesday that Ravnsborg didn’t immediately stop his vehicle after striking Boever, instead rolling on for seven seconds, or 613 feet; the agent suggested he could have stopped in about 175 feet.
When Ravnsborg called 911 right after the crash, the then-attorney general said he was unsure who or what he hit, and agreed with a dispatcher who suggested it might have been a deer. But when Rummel testified before a special legislative committee earlier this year, he said he was convinced Ravnsborg saw Boever’s body right away.
“He walked by a flashlight that’s on,” he said. “There’s a body that’s laying within two feet of the roadway and obviously deceased and he’s all white, there isn’t any blood being pumped in him, and the fact [is] white is reflective, I believe that he’d have to see him.”
Senate Democratic Leader Troy Heinert, speaking just before the vote, said he believed Ravnsborg knew he had hit and killed a person. “He knew,” Heinert said. “He knew something terrible happened and he was going to have to answer for it and he panicked.”
At first, the heavily Republican State Senate seemed to have little desire to punish Ravnsborg, but as details of the crash emerged (along with his long history of driving infractions including a recent run in with police) the heavily Republican State Senate was pushed to act. The Senate ended up voting 33-0 to bar Ravnsborg from ever holding office again.
“We’ve heard better lies from 5-year-olds,” Prosecutor Mark Vargo told the Senate. “By deed and by word, Jason Ravnsborg has forfeited his right to be attorney general of this great state.”
Ravnsborg was criminally charged with making an illegal lane change, using a phone while driving, and careless driving after the crash. He ended up pleading no contest to the illegal lane change and cellphone use charges. Careless driving was dropped and Ravnsborg ended up paying out nearly $5,000 in court fees and charges with no jail time. He also has to do some significant public service for the next five years. Ravnsborg settled a civil lawsuit from Boever’s widow out of court.