South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) pleaded not guilty in an initial court hearing Friday for three misdemeanor charges he is facing for fatally striking a pedestrian with his car in September.
Ravnsborg did not appear at the hearing but his lawyer Tim Rensch made the plea on his behalf during a hearing that lasted less than 10 minutes, according to the Associated Press.
“At this point, we’d enter a not guilty plea, and we would ask that the court set this matter up for a status hearing in 60 days, so that we can go through the discovery,” Rensch told the judge in a request for 60 days to look over the evidence in the case. “In some cases, there is a mountain of discovery. In this case, there is a mountain range of discovery.”
The judge and prosecutors did not object to that time which would push the case to mid-May.
Prosecutors noted to AP that it is typical for defendants to plead not guilty at this point in the trial before defense lawyers have a chance to look at the evidence.
Aside from misdemeanor charges, the attorney general is facing calls for his resignation that he has rebuffed from Republican Gov. Kristi Noem and others.
Late last month, South Dakota state Rep. Will Mortenson (R) introduced a resolution with bipartisan support to impeach and remove Ravnsborg, who has been charged with misdemeanors in the case careless driving, driving out of his lane and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone. South Dakota House lawmakers later passed a resolution to halt those proceedings ahead of Friday’s hearing.
Ravnsborg struck Joseph Boever who was walking on the shoulder of a rural highway and has said he initially thought he had struck a deer or large animal and only later realized he had killed a man the next day when he returned to the scene of the crash.
Prosecutors have said that in spite of a five-month investigation into the events of that night they have lingering questions and are unable to file more serious criminal charges.
Boever’s cousin, Nick Nemec, told AP that he found Ravnsborg’s decision not to plead guilty from the start of the trial “troubling.”
“He was obviously outside of his lane. The skid marks on Highway 14 are still visible,” Nemec said. “I think he’s just as guilty as can be.”