Update: The South Dakota House has voted to impeach South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R).
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) is staring down the barrel of potential impeachment after fatally hitting a man with his car.
He made his case to the state legislature on Monday evening in the form of a both fiery and plaintive letter to South Dakota House lawmakers, sent the night before the House was slated to vote on whether to impeach the official.
Half of the letter consisted of the attorney general accusing South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who’s been actively calling for Ravnsborg’s ouster over the crash for more than a year now, of coming after him for political reasons inflamed by the fact that he’s investigating the governor for potential nepotism.
Ravnsborg defended his refusal to resign in wake of the fatal collision, claiming the incident “did not impede” his ability to do his job as attorney general, “including ongoing investigations of the executive office.”
“Knowing Governor Noem could hand select my replacement, I felt it appropriate to stay in office to maintain the checks and balances within the state,” he wrote.
Besides, Ravnsborg complained, hasn’t he been through enough already?
“We have gone through the process and the price has been paid,” said Ravnsborg, who was given a plea deal in which he pleaded no contest to two traffic misdemeanors and paid $1,000 in fines plus $3,742 in court fees. The deal came after investigators found that the glasses belonging to the man Ravnsborg hit were in the attorney general’s car, leading prosecutors to believe the man’s face had gone through the windshield.
In his letter to the lawmakers, Ravnsborg tried to argue using a cell phone while driving (one of the two misdemeanors to which he pleaded no contest) wasn’t a big deal. But in a particularly bizarre moment in the letter, he also seemed to admit driving while on the phone is “not right” before apparently striking out that part:
That wasn’t the only apparent error in the letter; as the Sioux Falls Argus Leader notes, Ravnsborg also wrote the wrong date for the accident, which happened on Sept. 12, 2020.
Ravnsborg went on to warn the lawmakers that their decision “could overturn an election and set forth a dangerous precedent for all South Dakota elected officials.”
(Ravnsborg was one of the Republican state attorneys general who joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s doomed bid to get the Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 election results.)
“As such, I respectfully ask that you adopt the House Investigation Committees’ [sic] majority report and declare this matter complete and final and let the healing process continue,” the attorney general concluded in his letter.
Ravnsborg was referring to the special committee that investigated the crash’s vote against recommending impeachment in a 6-2 vote along party lines a little over two weeks ago.
However, that vote came before the South Dakota Highway Patrol briefed lawmakers on its investigation and revealed even more damning (and gruesome) details of the incident. The briefing by law enforcement outlined state evidence that suggests Ravnsborg hit the pedestrian and was likely aware he had struck a human at the time of the crash, despite publicly claiming otherwise.
At least 36 lawmakers in the 70-member South Dakota House will need to vote for impeaching Ravnsborg to trigger a trial in the Senate.
Even though all but eight House lawmakers are Republicans, Ravnsborg is far from safe. Several GOP lawmakers have said they support impeaching the attorney general and it was a Republican state representative who first introduced the impeachment resolution last year and re-introduced it again on Monday.
Read Ravnsborg’s letter below: