PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota House is set to decide Tuesday whether Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg should be impeached for his conduct before and after he struck and killed a pedestrian on the shoulder of a highway.
Troopers have said Ravnsborg was distracted before the September 2020 crash that killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever. Ravnsborg initially told authorities he thought he had struck a deer or other large animal. He went back the next day and found Boever’s body.
Opponents of impeachment say Ravnsborg need not be held accountable by the House because he wasn’t on the job when the crash happened. He had been driving back from a Republican fundraiser.
Ravnsborg has cast Boever’s death as a tragic accident. He pleaded no contest last year to a pair of traffic misdemeanors, including making an illegal lane change.
An investigation committee from the Republican-controlled House voted against recommending impeachment after arguments that Ravnsborg’s actions were not part of his official duties. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has pushed for impeachment, saying Ravnsborg lied to investigators.
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.
Republican Rep. Will Mortenson, of Pierre, brought articles of impeachment against Ravnsborg more than a year ago. He did not return phone messages left Monday by The Associated Press.
Last week, at the request of Republican Rep. Tim Goodwin, of Rapid City, about 30 lawmakers took in a presentation by two Highway Patrol troopers outlining details of the investigation.
Goodwin said it raised doubts about the committee’s recommendation. House Speaker Spencer Gosch, who chaired the committee, called it a sales pitch. Gosch did not respond to phone messages Monday.
While it’s unclear whether the presentation would have any effect on the impeachment vote, Noem’s spokesman referenced it Monday to sum up the feelings in the governor’s office.
“The troopers’ presentation speaks better than I ever could,” Ian Fury said.
Democrat House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, a member of the impeachment investigation committee, said the troopers helped with unanswered questions, but he doesn’t believe they will change any minds. He expects Tuesday’s floor debate to last a couple of hours before the vote.
“As a member of the committee, I said I believed there were grounds for impeachment and I will stay with that,” Smith said.
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