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Ravnsborg interview analysis: Victim’s glasses found in car, cell phone use among key moments

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 9:37 PM CST
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(Dakota News Now) - Newly released interview video revealed new details about the investigation into the fatal crash involving South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, including that investigator’s found the victim’s glasses inside Ravnsborg’s car.

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety released the videos Tuesday night after articles of impeachment were filed against Ravnsborg in the State House.

After over five months of investigation, prosecutors announced last week Ravnsborg faced three misdemeanor charges in connection to the Sept. 12 crash near Highmore where he struck and killed Joseph Boever, who was walking alongside Highway 14. Prosecutors said they did not have evidence to file more serious charges.

The two videos, roughly three hours long combined, shed new light on what evidence investigators had, as well as Ravnsborg’s explanation of what happened that night. The first interview was conducted Sept. 14, the second, on Sept. 30.

Ravnsborg told investigators he didn’t see Boever before, during, or after the accident. He said he immediately got out of the car and called 911 “within seconds.” But the investigators - who were called in from North Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation to avoid conflicts of interest - pressed Ravnsborg on many of his assertions.

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Jason Ravnsborg (AP photo/file)
Jason Ravnsborg (AP photo/file)(Source: AP Photo/Dirk Lammers, File)
Was Ravnsborg distracted?

During the interview, investigators noted Ravnsborg’s phone records showed he was browsing political websites shortly before the time of the crash, but Ravnsborg repeatedly stated he set the phone down prior to the crash.

“People make mistakes,” an investigator said at one point. “We’re thinking you made one.”

“I don’t remember being on my phone,” a visibly frustrated Ravnsborg responded. “I set it down, and shut the radio off, and looked at the speedometer, is the best I remember.”

When investigators pressed Ravnsborg about his phone use, including details recorded in his phone’s data, Ravnsborg repeatedly said he could not recall specifics.

Boever’s glasses found in car

Another detail revealed by the video - Boever’s glasses were found in Ravnsborg’s car, meaning at least part of his face smashed through the windshield.

Ravnsborg denied seeing Boever hit the windshield, and said he did not see the glasses in the car after the crash.

“His glasses are there, Jason. Those are Joe’s,” an investigator said.

“I did not see the glasses, until you showed me,” Ravnsborg said, referencing an earlier interview where authorities told him about the glasses.

“The only way for them to get there, was through the windshield,” the investigator responded.

Investigators also noted that Boever’s body was found some distance down the road from where he was struck, saying this means the body would have been pinned against the vehicle until Ravnsborg slowed down enough for it to roll off. Ravnsborg maintained he did not see Boever.

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Joseph Boever (submitted photo)
Joseph Boever (submitted photo)(Submitted photo)
Boever’s flashlight

Boever was carrying a phone flashlight when he was struck. In the video, one interviewer said that flashlight was still on the following day when investigators arrived at the scene.

Ravnsborg denied seeing the flashlight. He previously told investigators he got out of the car after the crash to inspect the damage; he denied seeing the flashlight at that point, as well.

The interviewers noted other witnesses had reported seeing Boever carry the flashlight. They also said investigators later returned to the scene at nighttime and placed the flashlight in the spot it was found to see how well it could be seen.

“It’s hard to miss,” one interviewer said. Another interviewer said it “was like a beacon,” and easily visible from either side of the road.

Ravnsborg “assumed” he hit a deer

Ravnsborg told investigators he thought he had struck a deer, and did not realize he struck a man until he returned the next day to retrieve his car.

Investigators repeatedly pushed Ravnsborg on this statement, noting the glasses that ended up in the car, as well as the fact other witnesses reported seeing Boever walking alongside the road that night.

An interviewer also noted that in his 911 call, Ravnsborg said he thought he hit “something,” and didn’t specify a deer.

“Because I didn’t know what it was,” Ravnsborg said. “But I assumed, assumed, it was a deer. I never saw a deer, I never saw a man. I just assumed it was a deer.”

“I am not a liar.”

Despite investigators pressing him, Ravnsborg never admitted to any wrongdoing.

At one point, an interviewer told Ravnsborg investigators knew he was not driving down the middle of the road, and knew he was not driving attentively with hands at “10 and 2.”

“If you’re looking at it from our perspective, things haven’t been straightforward by any means,” the interviewer said. “In fact, some people would call you a liar.”

“I am not a liar,” Ravnborg responded.

“I’m not calling you a liar. But there were mistakes made here, though. You’d have to agree to that.”

“I don’t know what I would have done different,” Ravnsborg said, looking down, visibly flustered. “I believe I was in the road, and I believe I set my phone down, shut the radio off, and was looking to put the cruise control on.”

Why Ravnsborg didn’t contact family

Boever’s family previously told Dakota News Now Ravnsborg never reached out to them following the crash. Ravnsborg addressed that during the interview, saying his office looked into reaching out to Boever’s mother, but learned Boever’s father had passed away just six weeks prior.

“She had just lost her husband, then six weeks later, she loses her son. So we didn’t think that was the right time,” Ravnsborg said.

Ravnsborg told Dakota News Now in December that he had attempted to reach out to the family.

Watch the Department of Public Safety’s full interviews here.

NOTE: Officials say portions of the interview not pertaining to the investigation were redacted.

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