South Dakota governor sends AG crash investigation to House

Posted at 7:44 PM, September 1, 2021 and last updated 7:57 PM, June 14, 2023

By STEPHEN GROVES Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Wednesday renewed her efforts to force the state’s attorney general from office after he hit and killed a pedestrian last year, delivering to the House speaker an external hard drive containing the crash investigation file.

The House had indicated earlier this year that it might resume talks of impeachment after the trial against Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg concluded. That happened last week when the Republican attorney general pleaded no contest to a pair of traffic misdemeanors for a crash last year that killed Joseph Boever, who walking on a rural highway on Sept. 12.

FILE – In this Feb. 23, 2014, file photo Jason Ravnsborg speaks in Sioux Falls, S.D.  (AP Photo/Dirk Lammers, File)

Ravnsborg avoided jail time but was sentenced to fines totaling over $4,500 for making an illegal lane change and using a cellphone while driving. Investigators said his car had swerved onto the shoulder of the rural highway where Boever was walking and found that Ravnsborg had been on his phone about a minute before the crash.

The Republican governor has applied maximum pressure on Ravnsborg to step down, but so far he has resisted those calls and insisted he can carry forward in his office.

“The remarkable detail in this investigation file will assist the House in its important work of considering whether to proceed with impeachment articles for the Attorney General,” Noem said in a statement.
House Speaker Spencer Gosch said he would be evaluating the investigation, but he had not determined the process in the House and what information would be publicly released.

Noem’s secretary of public safety, Craig Price, said in a publicly-released letter to House Speaker Spencer Gosch that he believed the attorney general should have been charged with 2nd Degree Manslaughter.

“In my opinion as a 24-year law enforcement officer, and in the opinion of the highly trained highway patrol officers involved in this investigation, Mr. Ravnsborg should have been charged with 2nd Degree Manslaughter,” Price stated. “The prosecution team was well aware of that position.”

Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Sovell, who brought the misdemeanor charges, said in February the evidence simply didn’t support felony charges of vehicular homicide or manslaughter, which could have meant years of prison time.

The governor’s office released a list of 65 items it was including in the investigation file, including cellphone data, interviews and crime scene mapping.

“Politics never entered into this investigation,” Price said in his letter.

However, Ravnsborg has charged that the investigation was exploited by “partisan opportunists.” He did not name the governor, but his attorney, Tim Rensch, did. He said last week Ravnsborg was not treated fairly by the governor, who oversaw the crash investigation.