South Dakota House leader renews call for AG impeachment

Posted at 7:51 PM, September 9, 2021 and last updated 8:04 PM, June 14, 2023

By STEPHEN GROVES Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers are being asked to call a special session to consider impeaching Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg for his conduct in a car crash last year that killed a pedestrian.

In a joint statement released Thursday, the House Speaker, House Republican leader and House Democratic leader laid out a process to evaluate impeaching the Republican attorney general, but it would require two-thirds support from both the House and Senate to move forward.

FILE – In this Feb. 23, 2014, file photo Jason Ravnsborg speaks in Sioux Falls, S.D. South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg reported hitting a deer with his car on Saturday night but actually killed a pedestrian whose body was not found until the next day, state investigators said Monday Sept. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Dirk Lammers, File)

House Republican leader Rep. Kent Peterson said he is proposing a special session in November. If that call receives the necessary support, House Speaker Spencer Gosch would then appoint a committee to investigate the conduct of the attorney general, whose term in office runs through 2022.

“The process will be fair, thorough, and transparent,” Gosch said in a statement.

Gov. Kristi Noem, who has called for Ravnsborg’s resignation, last week delivered a hard drive containing the crash investigation to Gosch. The governor’s office also released a letter from Secretary of Public Safety Craig Price saying he believed that Ravnsborg should have faced manslaughter charges.

But Gosch said the House would not be retrying “criminal matters.”

The attorney general pleaded no contest to a pair of misdemeanors last month, while a third misdemeanor was dropped by prosecutors. He 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 veered onto the shoulder of the rural highway where the man was walking late on Sept. 12 last year and that Ravnsborg had been on his cellphone about a minute before the crash.

Peterson, along with House Democratic leader Rep. Jamie Smith, supported a move to impeach Ravnsborg in February, but that quickly stalled while Ravnsborg’s trial played out. They argued at the time that Ravnsborg, the state’s top law enforcement officer, should be removed from office for “his crimes or misdemeanors in office causing the death” of 55-year-old Joseph Boever.

A spokesman for Ravnsborg did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The attorney general has repeatedly insisted he will not resign.