After his impeachment in April by South Dakota's state House, SD Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg faced a state Senate trial and possible removal from office on Tuesday over his conduct in a fatal hit and run crash that left a man dead in 2020, and when Ravnsborg faced the music he had no chair to sit in when it stopped playing.
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was removed from office on Tuesday after an historic impeachment trial in the state Senate, nearly two years after he fatally struck a man with his vehicle.
Ravnsborg was facing two articles of impeachment stemming from his role in the 2020 car crash: one for crimes that resulted in death, and the other for malfeasance related to his conduct after the collision.
The senators voted 24-9 in favor of the first article — the exact number of votes to meet the two-thirds threshold necessary for conviction and removal — and 31-3 for the second. Those outcomes triggered a third vote on whether Ravnsborg should be barred from holding future office, with all 33 senators present voting in favor of that.
Ravnsborg, a Republican who was elected state attorney general in 2018, now becomes the first South Dakota official to be removed from office –– more than two months after he became the first to ever be impeached following a vote in the state House of Representatives.
For almost two years, the ordeal surrounding Ravnsborg has gripped South Dakota locals and brought national attention to the sparsely populated state.
It also became a dominant focus for the state’s governor, Kristi Noem, who repeatedly called on Ravnsborg to resign. After Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to a pair of misdemeanors over the crash, Noem immediately called on the legislature to move forward with impeachment.
Following the vote in the state Senate on Tuesday, Noem celebrated the outcome.
“After nearly 2 years the dark cloud over the Attorney General’s office has been lifted,” the governor said on Twitter. “It is now time to move on and begin to restore confidence in the office.”
Ravnsborg was driving back to the capital city of Pierre on September 12, 2020 when he veered off the road and struck a man named Joseph Boever. The subsequent chain of events is what elevated the crash to a scandal. Ravnsborg claims he did not realize he hit a man that night, and after calling 911, the responding county sheriff loaned the attorney general his personal vehicle to complete his trip back to the capital city of Pierre that night.
When he drove back to return the sheriff’s vehicle the following morning, Ravnsborg and his chief of staff stopped by the scene and found Boever’s lifeless body. Ravnsborg claims that was the first moment he knew he had hit a man.
There has been pervasive skepticism surrounding that account, which was a central topic at Tuesday’s trial.
“He absolutely saw the man,” said Alexis Tracy, one of two attorneys leading the prosecution.
Tracy said Ravnsborg had “countless” opportunities “to do the right thing.”
In his closing arguments, Mark Vargo, the other prosecutor, probed some of Ravnsborg’s comments made to investigators, at one point playing a clip of the attorney general clumsily saying he never saw the man.
“You’ve heard better lies from five-year-olds,” Vargo said.
Ravnsborg really believed he would never be removed in this way and that he would simply be able to run in November for a second term. That will not happen now. Justice was not served here, but accountability was to be had for once in the GOP.
It's the exception that proves the rule of a party of corruption.