UPDATE: Despite impeachment articles, Ravnsborg doesn’t plan to resign

South Dakota's attorney general Jason Ravnsborg
South Dakota's attorney general Jason Ravnsborg(South Dakota Attorney General Office)
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 2:26 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said he does not plan to resign despite facing articles of impeachment in the State House.

Ravnsborg’s spokesperson released a statement to Dakota News Now Tuesday evening saying the Attorney General does not plan on stepping down from office.

“The Attorney General does not intend to resign,” the statement said. “At no time has this issue impeded his ability to do the work of the office. Instead, he has handled some of the largest settlements and legislative issues the state has ever been through. As an attorney and a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserves, AG Ravnsborg has fought for the rule of law and personal liberties and would hope that he is afforded the same right and courtesy.”

House lawmakers filed articles of impeachment Tuesday afternoon after Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors in connection to a crash where Ravnsborg struck and killed a pedestrian near Highmore in September.

A South Dakota lawmaker has moved to remove Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg from office after he was charged in connection to a fatal crash.

Rep. Will Mortenson (R, Pierre) filed articles of impeachment against Ravnsborg Tuesday afternoon. House Majority Leader Kent Peterson (R, Salem) and House Minority Leader Jamie Smith (D, Sioux Falls) co-sponsored the resolution.

“The Attorney General has a special obligation to follow the laws and protect the public,” Mortenson said in a statement. “Jason Ravnsborg’s actions and statements related to the death of Joseph Boever breached those obligations to the people of South Dakota, and he should be removed from office.”

The resolution includes two separate articles of impeachment. One concerns the “crimes and misdemeanors that caused the death of Joseph Boever,” while the other concerns Ravnsborg’s “statements and actions” in reporting the crime and the resulting investigation.

The timeline of when the House will vote on the articles is unclear. Lawmakers were expected to vote on it Tuesday afternoon, but that vote never materialized in the general session.

If the House approves the articles, the Senate then takes up the case. The Senate process is similar to a court proceedings, and by state law cannot begin until at least 20 days after the notice of impeachment is served. A two-thirds majority in the Senate is required for conviction and ultimately removal from office.

Gov. Kristi Noem is in support of the articles of impeachment, according to a spokesperson for her office. Noem called for Ravnsborg to resign earlier Tuesday.

Read the full articles of impeachment here.

Ravnsborg charged in fatal crash

Ravnsborg struck and killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever with his car near Highmore on Sept. 12. He told investigators he thought he struck a deer, and didn’t realize he struck a man until he returned the next day.

Prosecutors announced three charges last week in connection to the crash: careless driving, operating a vehicle while using a mobile device, and a driving lane violation for driving outside of his lane.

The charges were all misdemeanors, and prosecutors said they do not indicate Ravnsborg was criminally responsible for Boever’s death. Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Sovell said that a manslaughter charge cannot be brought simply for poor driving, even if someone is killed. South Dakota does not have a negligent homicide law, and thus it can’t be applied in the case.

Ravnsborg has faced calls to resign from a number of state lawmakers following the announcement of charges. He previously said he does not plan on resigning, though his spokesperson told Dakota News Now on Tuesday that Ravnsborg is currently “gathering information” regarding the situation.

State’s first-ever impeachment

South Dakota’s State Constitution has never been tested in regard to impeachment from office, as the legislature has never impeached an elected official.

The State House holds the sole power to implement impeachment proceedings. The State Senate is empowered to try a case.

A majority of the members elected in the House first must approve articles of impeachment; 36 of 70 members in the 2021 session.

The South Dakota Broadcasting Association reports the process in the Senate looks very much like a court proceeding with rules of due process defining the timeline. A Senate conviction requires at least a two-thirds majority vote.

CORRECTION: A Dakota News Now tweet posted Tuesday evening erroneously stated Ravnsborg does plan to resign.

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