South Dakota Attorney General Ravnsborg impeached over conduct following fatal car crash

Ravnsborg reported hitting a deer with his car in 2020, but he actually hit and killed a person

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The South Dakota House voted Tuesday to impeach state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg over a September 2020 car crash he was involved in which left one individual dead after he reported hitting a deer.

In a vote of 36-31, Ravnsborg, a Republican who took office in 2019, became the first official to be impeached in South Dakota history. Ravnsborg will temporarily be removed from office pending a Senate trial. It will take two-thirds majority in the Senate for Ravnsborg to be convicted on impeachment charges. The Senate must wait at least 20 days to hold its trial, but has not yet set a date.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg speaks in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 2014.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg speaks in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 2014. (AP Photo/Dirk Lammers, File)

Ravnsborg pleaded no contest last year to a pair of traffic misdemeanors in the crash, including making an illegal lane change. He has cast Joseph Boever’s death as a tragic accident.

In narrowly voting to impeach the state’s top prosecutor, the Republican-controlled House charged Ravnsborg with committing crimes that caused someone’s death, making "numerous misrepresentations" to law enforcement officers after the crash, and using his office to navigate the criminal investigation. A Senate conviction would mean Ravnsborg would be barred from holding any state office in the future.

Ravnsborg, who took office in 2019, was returning home from a Republican dinner in September 2020 when he struck and killed Boever, who was walking along a rural highway. A sheriff who responded after Ravnsborg called 911 initially reported it as a collision with an animal. Ravnsborg has said he did not realize he hit a man until he returned the next day and found the body.

The Highway Patrol concluded that Ravnsborg’s car crossed completely onto the highway shoulder before hitting Boever, and criminal investigators said later that they didn’t believe some of Ravnsborg’s statements.

Ravnsborg speaks during a news conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019.

Ravnsborg speaks during a news conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

"He should have stepped down, should have done the honorable thing," said House Speaker Spencer Gosch, who oversaw the House investigation and voted against impeachment.

The articles of impeachment required approval from a majority of the 70 members of the House and passed by just one vote.

Of the 36 people who voted in favor, eight were Democrats and 28 were Republicans. The 31 against it were all Republicans. Republican Rep. Scott Odenbach recused himself because he had given legal advice to the attorney general after the crash. Two other Republican lawmakers were absent.

Ravnsborg, who had been largely silent about the crash and was not present for the vote, sent lawmakers a pair of defiant letters Monday night urging them not to impeach him.

"In a few hours, your vote will set a precedent for years to come," Ravnsborg wrote. "No state has ever impeached an elected official for a traffic accident."

He also accused Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of interfering in the investigation and of supporting impeachment because of the attorney general’s investigations into her behavior.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

After Ravnsborg fell out with the governor following the crash, he pushed a pair of ethics complaints against Noem to the state’s Government Accountability Board.

Following the vote, Noem, who referred to Ravnsborg's letter to lawmakers as "bizarre," issued a tweet and said the "right decision" was made in impeaching Ravnsborg.

"Today, the House of Representatives did the right thing for the people of South Dakota and for Joe Boever's family," Noem wrote.

Last month, in a vote of 7-2, a South Dakota House committee controlled by Republicans recommended Ravnsborg not face impeachment charges for his involvement in the fatal car crash.

Fox News' Andrew Mark Miller and The Associated Press contributed to this article.