South Dakota’s Republican-controlled state senate voted to impeach Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg on Tuesday. The affirmative votes on the two articles of impeachment before the state’s upper chamber automatically remove the state’s embattled attorney general from office, according to The Associated Press.
The majority of Mount Rushmore State senators agreed that Ravnsborg caused a death, misled law enforcement, and abused the powers of his office, the AP continued.
Here’s how the wire service described the scene when the final vote was tallied:
Ravnsborg’s face showed little emotion as the vote on the first article of impeachment went down to the final senator’s vote and passed with the minimum needed for conviction. He held his hand over his mouth as he had for much of the trial, then wrote a note on a notepad in his lap.
The vote required a two-thirds majority.
The conviction and concomitant removal from office mark the conclusion of a convoluted legal and political process that began in 2020. It was on Sept. 12 of that year that Ravnsborg, also a Republican, struck and killed Joseph Boever, 55, as Ravnsborg was driving home from a political event at 10:21 p.m. along U.S. Highway 14 east of Highmore. Ravnsborg told a 911 dispatcher that he thought he struck a deer.
Relatives said in the immediate aftermath of the incident that Boever was most likely simply walking down the side of the road at the time. At one point Ravnsborg appeared poised to claim Boever was suicidal — a defense posture that drew swift criticism from some of Boever’s relatives.
Criminal investigators who probed the matter ascertained that Ravnsborg was reading headlines on RealClearPolitics and Just the News about “some conspiracy” involving Joe Biden and China about a “minute” before he hit Boever, according to Law&Crime’s previous reports on the sprawling probe into what happened.
South Dakota AG Jason Ravnsborg was reading Joe Biden conspiracy theories at John Solomon’s Just The News website while driving when he slammed into a man, killing him and hitting him so hard the man’s face came through the windshield. (Ravnsborg claimed he thought he hit a deer) pic.twitter.com/Lz9dWb7SBa
— Tim Johnson (@timberwjohnson) February 26, 2021
“Well, I remember looking at it, but that’s when I set my phone down . . . prior to — yeah,” Ravnsborg responded when confronted with his cell phone data.
Investigators believed there appeared to be a “problem here” and that it looked like Ravnsborg was contemplating Joe Biden conspiracy theories at the moment he hit and killed Boever.
“When we look at that, our concern is, everything that we’re seeing here is appearing that you were on your phone reading political stuff at the time,” an investigator said.
Ravnsborg denied looking at the phone when he struck and killed Boever; he said he set the phone down before the crash.
Investigators also said Boever’s reading classes turned up inside the Ford Taurus that the attorney general was driving.
“His face was in your windshield, Jason,” said a law enforcement officer during an interview. “Think about that.”
Ravnsborg also denied knowing anything about the glasses.
Boever’s body wasn’t found until the next day.
A criminal case ensued. Ravnsborg was charged with one count each of careless driving, operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, and a lane-changing violation. Each of the alleged crimes was considered a Class 2 misdemeanor and was punishable by a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to two of those three counts, Law&Crime reported in Aug. 2021. The punishment in the criminal matter was a series of two $500 fines and about $3,700 in court costs. The AG was ordered to serve no jail time despite the underlying statute authorizing a potential of 30 days in jail for each two of the two offenses.
Boever’s family called Ravnsborg a “coward” for appearing through an attorney — and not personally — during a sentencing hearing.
Timothy Rensch, Ravnsborg’s defense attorney, responded by reminding the victim’s family — and the public — that the case was not a homicide case.
“Accidents happen,” Rensch said at one point while arguing for as light a punishment as the law would allow. “People die. It happens.”
Jane Boever, the victim’s sister, said during that sentencing hearing that Ravnsborg of exhibiting an “arrogance toward the law he as an attorney general is supposed to uphold.”
Jennifer Boever, the victim’s wife, called her husband “a highly intelligent man” and a “caring man” who was also known for his “compassion” as a career nurse. She said she was “financially burdened” by the loss of her husband and that her own college plans were derailed by the deadly crash.
The family generally seemed to have settled on the theory that distracted driving was the cause of Joseph Boever’s death.
“I just have a weight off my shoulders,” one of Boever’s cousins, Nic Nemec, told KELO-TV after the impeachment vote on Tuesday. “Had he remained in office, people would have lost trust in their government, and maybe this will help.”
“I feel greatly relieved today,” said Vic Nemec, another cousin said. “As far as closure, our cousin is still gone. There’s never really any complete closure, but maybe kind of starting another chapter now. It’s good to see they did the right thing.”
Vic Nemec said he had to wipe away tears several times during the impeachment trial.
“I’m happy that it went the way it did,” he continued. “It feels odd to feel happy when our cousin is still gone, but life goes on.”
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is now tasked with naming a replacement for Ravnsborg, KELO reported.
The vote tally is below:
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