“His face was in your windshield,” said a detective while interrogating South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg after a hit-and-run incident that killed Joe Boever. Ravnsborg’s story about what happened the night of September 12. 2020, began to fall apart almost immediately.
Ravnsborg, a Republican, says he thought he hit a deer on his way to Pierre, coming from a fundraiser. Boever’s truck had broken down and he was walking toward Ravnsborg car along the side of U.S. Route 14 on the shoulder. Ravnsborg’s car apparently crossed onto the shoulder striking and killing Boever.
Ravnsborg called 911 and told the dispatcher he thought he had “hit something.” A local sheriff responded to the call and he and Ravnsborg searched for evidence of what or whom he might have hit. Not finding anything — despite Ravnsborg’s cellphone data showing him walking right past Boever’s body — the sheriff gave the AG a personal loaner car and went home.
The next day, Ravnsborg went back to the accident scene with his chief of staff and that’s when he found Boever’s body. Boever’s broken reading glasses were found inside Ravnsborg’s car.
Ravnsborg is facing charges for operating a vehicle while using a mobile or electronic device, a lane-driving violation for driving outside of his lane, and careless driving. Investigators say his cellphone was off when the accident occurred.
But a storm broke when Governor Kristi Noem released partial transcripts of the interrogation and 911 calls from Ravnsborg’s phone. A judge has since issued an injunction to prevent the governor from releasing anything else, but the damage has been done.
Investigation materials released in recent days have cast further doubt on Ravnsborg’s initial story. Phone records show he logged into a Yahoo email account and visited news sites in the minutes before he called 911, according to a compilation by the Argus Leader newspaper out of Sioux Falls.
After emerging from a meeting to announce the articles of impeachment on Tuesday, Republican state Rep. Will Mortenson of Pierre said the attorney general should not go to prison, but needs to be held accountable.
“This is not political, and it is not personal,”Mortenson said. “Again, I do not believe Attorney General Ravnsborg belongs in prison, but I know he does not belong in the Office of the Attorney General anymore.”
For her part, Noem wants Ravnsborg to step down.
Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday called for Ravnsborg — who faces three misdemeanor charges — to resign. Later that day, a bipartisan group of South Dakota House lawmakers filed a resolution to impeach him over acts “causing” and “following” Boever’s death, writing that “during his reporting of the collision and the resulting investigation, [Ravnsborg] undertook actions unbecoming the Attorney General.”
“Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the Attorney General should resign,” Noem tweeted. “I have reviewed the material we are releasing, starting today, and I encourage others to review it as well.”
If Ravnsborg had been an ordinary citizen, would he have been treated any differently? Lying to law enforcement is never a good idea and a crime as well. Certainly, Ravnsborg was shaken by the accident but saying you hit a deer when the victim’s glasses are lying in the seat next to you in your car doesn’t track with the truth.
Ravnsborg was a promising officeholder and a rising star in the party. But let’s not refer to his fall as a tragedy. The tragedy is for the family of Joe Boever who were forced to wait five months for answers about how their loved one died.