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South Dakota AG impeachment investigation broadens scope to key officials related to fatal crash

By Kelly Mena, CNN

South Dakota lawmakers voted on Wednesday to broaden their examination of the state attorney general’s killing of a man in a fatal collision last year.

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg killed a pedestrian while driving in September 2020. Ravnsborg initially told police he had hit a deer but discovered 55-year-old Joseph Boever’s body the following morning after returning to the scene of the crash.

The House Select Committee on Investigation is considering whether to recommend Ravnsborg be impeached following the fatal car crash. The articles alleging corrupt conduct were initially filed in February.

State lawmakers in March halted an initial impeachment effort against Ravnsborg, after criminal charges were filed against him. At the conclusion of the legal proceedings in late August, in which Ravnsborg pleaded no contest, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem called on the legislature to reconsider the impeachment articles.

In August, Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors in connection with the fatal crash. He was ordered to pay a $500 fine for each of the misdemeanors — one count of operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device and one count of lane driving. A third misdemeanor charge was dismissed. Ravnsborg did not get jail time.

Noem called for Ravnsborg to step down and offered her continued support for his impeachment should he not submit his resignation.

“If Ravnsborg does not resign, as I believe he should, the Legislature can and should consider the articles of impeachment already brought in the House,” Noem said in a statement in August.

The articles, initially filed in February by Republican state Rep. Will Mortenson, state that “following the collision, including during his reporting of the collision and the resulting investigation, Jason Ravnsborg undertook actions unbecoming the Attorney General.”

The move to broaden the discovery phase of the effort came at the tail end of a two-day meeting in which lawmakers have mostly been behind closed doors. During that private executive session, lawmakers on the committee — which is made up of seven Republicans and two Democrats — met with the lawyer hired to guide the inquiry.

“We continued the review of the large investigative file that was provided to us by the Department of Public Safety and then we also had a discussion of discovery issuance or discovery items,” said House Speaker Spencer Gosch, who is the chair of the special committee.

The motions made included subpoenas for key individuals related to the crash, including Craig Price, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety; an individual with Jackson Hole Scientific Investigations; two members of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation; and a trooper with the South Dakota Highway Patrol. The individuals are expected to testify next month.

Another motion was made to subpoena documents from the same departments with the addition of the Hyde County state’s attorney’s office.

Under the state constitution, officials including the attorney general “shall be liable to impeachment for drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office.” Additionally, for an official to be impeached, a majority of House members must approve and a trial must be conducted in the Senate. It would take a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict and remove an official from office, according to the state constitution.

For Ravnsborg to be impeached, the special committee must recommend charges and a majority of the House members then must approve them.

Gosch told CNN in an email statement that no official has been impeached in South Dakota before.

Among the more powerful pieces of evidence that have come to light since the incident has been investigators saying they found Boever’s broken glasses in Ravnsborg’s car and that the victim’s face had gone through the attorney general’s windshield.

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety released the evidence in February that included a two-part interview in which investigators had questioned Ravnsborg about a pair of broken glasses found inside his vehicle.

A preliminary autopsy report said that Boever had extensive injuries “both internally and externally,” according to Price. A toxicology report released by the state last year stated that a blood sample given by Ravnsborg the day after the crash showed his blood alcohol content was 0%.

CNN has reached out to Ravnsborg for comment.

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