After evading jail time for killing a man with his car, South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) was impeached by the state’s GOP-controlled House on Tuesday.
With the 36-31 state House vote, Ravnsborg became the first statewide official in South Dakota history to be impeached, according to the local Keloland News. The slim vote came after 40 minutes of discussion, with 28 Republicans joined all eight Democrats to reach the minimum 36-vote threshold.
31 Republicans voted against the measure, and three abstained.
The decision will now head to an impeachment trial in the Senate to determine whether Ravnsborg will be removed from office.
The full House vote came a little over two weeks after the special committee that was assigned to investigate the crash voted against recommending impeachment in a 6-2 vote along party lines.
On the eve of Tuesday’s vote, Ravnsborg sent House lawmakers a letter insisting he hadn’t done anything to warrant impeachment and accusing South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) – who’s been vocally demanding Ravnsborg’s ouster – of weaponizing the crash for political and possibly corrupt reasons.
Ravnsborg was ultimately charged with three misdemeanors, which were dropped to two when he accepted a plea deal. He received no jail time and was ordered to pay fines.
The saga began on the night of Sept. 12, 2020, when Ravensborg fatally struck a pedestrian, 55-year-old Joseph Boever, who was walking on the side of the highway as the attorney general was driving home from a GOP fundraiser in Pierre, South Dakota.
A recording of Ravensborg’s 911 call immediately after the crash revealed the attorney general had claimed to the dispatcher that he had “no idea” what he had hit.
Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek arrived at the scene, and, according to Ravnsborg, neither of them noticed Boever’s body while looking around the area.
Volek never publicly discussed his account of what happened that night before he died last November.
Ravnsborg claimed that he didn’t realize he had hit a person until he went back to the scene the next morning and found Boever. Blood toxicology tests, which were administered more than 12 hours after the collision, showed Ravnsborg did not have drugs or alcohol in his system.
The South Dakota Highway Patrol launched an investigation into the crash with assistance from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and in February last year, South Dakota state Rep. Will Mortenson (R) introduced a resolution with bipartisan support to begin impeachment proceedings against Ravnsborg. However, that initial impeachment push was put on hold ahead of the attorney general’s criminal trial.
Shocking details of the crash emerged from the investigation, including the discovery of Boever’s glasses inside Ravnsborg’s car, leading investigators to believe the pedestrian’s face had gone through the windshield. Investigators also said Ravnsborg’s phone records showed the attorney general had been perusing a RealClearPolitics article about President Joe Biden and China about one to two minutes before he called 911, indicating that the attorney general was distracted by his phone right before hitting Boever, according to prosecutors.
The South Dakota Highway Patrol provided even more grisly details of the investigation last week, telling lawmakers that Ravnsborg’s car was completely on the highway shoulder, that Boever’s body remained stuck to the front fender of the car for about 125 feet after the attorney general hit him and that Boever’s leg had been severed.
The Highway Patrol’s revelations to the lawmakers came after the special committee voted against recommending impeachment.
Prosecutors ultimately charged Ravnsborg with three traffic misdemeanors, which got dropped down to two after the attorney general accepted a plea deal in which he pleaded no contest to changing lanes illegally and using a phone while driving.
The judge ordered him to pay $1,000 in fines plus $3,742 in court fees.