South Dakota attorney general Jason Ravnsborg could face an unprecedented hearing in the House of Representatives after criminal charges were brought against him last week, the Argus leader confirmed on Sunday evening.
The development comes four days after the Hyde County Prosecutor’s Office announced they would not indict Ravnsborg on the felony charges of Joe Boever, 55, of Highmore, who was traveling on Highway 14 on Sept. 12 when he was beaten has been . Instead, Ravnsborg will face three separate misdemeanor charges in court for negligent and distracted driving. However, several GOP leaders have confirmed that Ravnsborg could be the subject of impeachment proceedings.
Ravnsborg said last week through a private public relations contractor based in Utah that it would not step down. But filing impeachment lawsuits in South Dakota legislation could remove him from office anyway. And he will not be able to serve as an elected official while the impeachment trial is pending.
The spokesman, Mike Deaver, did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday night.
Under the South Dakota Constitution, state officials can be charged with “drunkenness, crime, corrupt behavior, or misconduct or misdemeanor in office”. The three charges that Ravnsborg faces fall under this umbrella of criminal offenses.
The move to indict Ravnsborg follows public outcry that no more serious charges have been brought against him.
The power to indict a state official rests with the House of Representatives. A majority of the 70 members must vote in favor of the indictment. A successful impeachment vote in the House of Representatives triggers a trial in the South Dakota Senate. If two-thirds of its members voted for a conviction, Ravnsborg would be removed from office and barred from holding any future office.
The Constitution also states that a person charged by the House cannot fulfill their official duties until they have been acquitted in a Senate trial.
No elected statewide official has been charged, despite union officials calling for Governor Tom Berry to be ousted in 1935 after the Democratic governor deployed troops to break off a strike at the John Morrell plant in Sioux Falls.
In 2007, the Senate voted to reprimand one of its members, Dan Sutton, after a lawsuit found Sutton had improper relations with a legislature. But Sutton, who was a Senator, was not charged by the House.
44-year-old Ravnsborg was elected Attorney General in 2018. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014, one of several Republican candidates who lost to former Governor Mike Rounds. After that election, Ravnsborg was a regular at the GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner, which hosts fundraisers and state officials at county parties. These dinners helped Ravnsborg cultivate GOP delegates who named him the party’s candidate for attorney general during the 2018 party convention.
The night he killed Boever, Ravnsborg was returning from a GOP dinner in Spink County, Redfield. He turned off the side of Highway 14 and reported on a 911 call that he had hit something on the road and concluded that it might be a deer.
Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek responded to the accident, but Boever’s body was not found. Volek loaned Ravnsborg a personal vehicle to return to Pierre. Ravnsborg discovered Boever’s body the next morning when he was bringing Volek’s vehicle back.
Prior to winning the Attorney General’s race, Ravnsborg was a lawyer in Yankton. He also served as a lieutenant colonel in the US Army Reserve.
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