South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg will not face felony charges after he fatally struck a pedestrian while driving on a highway in September, prosecutors announced on Thursday.
Emily Sovell, the deputy state’s attorney for Hyde County, said during a press conference that Ravnsborg has been charged with three misdemeanors instead: careless driving, driving outside his lane and using a mobile device while operating a motor vehicle.
The announcement came five months after Ravnsborg hit 55-year-old Joe Boever with his vehicle as Boever was walking on the shoulder of the highway at night. The pedestrian died at the scene, though Ravnsborg, who was unharmed, claimed he did not realize he had struck a person until the morning after the crash.
Sovell described the probe into the incident as “extraordinarily thorough.”
Beadle County State’s Attorney Michael Moore, who assisted Sovell with the investigation, told a reporter that he didn’t “feel good” about the light charges “but it’s the right decision,” according to the Associated Press.
The circumstances of the collision were shrouded in mystery from the jump and only got more confusing as details emerged.
On September 13, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) gave a press conference announcing that Ravnsborg had been involved in a car accident where there had been a “fatality.” She did not offer any more information, and neither did the attorney general.
A day later, Ravnsborg issued a statement giving what he called a “full and factual account” of the accident. The official claimed that on his way back from a Republican fundraising event in Redfield, South Dakota at around 10:30 p.m., he struck something on the highway but did not see what it was. Ravnsborg said he searched around his vehicle in the dark but “saw nothing to indicate what I had hit,” even when he used his cell phone as a flashlight to check the ditch.
Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek arrived at the site of the crash and didn’t find anything either after Ravnsborg called 911, according to the official.
“At no time did either of us suspect that I had been involved in an accident with a person,” Ravnsborg said.
Ravnsborg did not discover Boever’s body until he checked the scene again the next morning after seeing debris from his car on the road, the attorney general claimed in his statement.
Ravnsborg told the 911 dispatcher that he had “no idea” what he had hit, according to a recording of the call.
Blood toxicology tests, which were taken more than 12 hours after the collision, showed Ravnsborg did not have drugs or alcohol in his system.
In November, South Dakota Secretary of Public Safety Craig Price told the press that the ongoing investigation indicated that Ravnsborg was distracted when he hit Boever. Price declined to elaborate.