South Dakota AG Ravnsborg pleads not guilty in fatal crash case

The day of the court hearing marked exactly six months since Ravnsborg struck and killed Boever as he walked alongside Highway 14 near Highmore.
Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 4:12 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg made his first court appearance Friday following a fatal crash last September where he struck and killed Joe Boever of Highmore.

Ravnsborg is facing careless driving, operating a motor vehicle while on a mobile device, and driving outside his lane, each punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Ravnsborg pled not guilty to all three charges. Each of the penalties Ravnsborg is charged with carries a potential $500 fine and 30-day jail sentence.

The initial court appearance began at 4 PM CST at Hughes County Courthouse in Pierre. Ravnsborg wasn’t present, which is standard in misdemeanor cases. Ravnsborg’s next court date is expected to be sometime in mid-May. Judge John Brown, who presided over the case, encouraged attorneys for both the defense and the prosecution to review their schedules and see what day could work them sometime around then.

In asking for the sixty day extension, Ravnbsorg’s attorney Tim Rensch of Rapid City said “in some cases, there’s a mountain of discovery. In this case, there’s a mountain range of discovery.” Rensch declined to speak to media about the case afterward.

A number of Joe Boever’s family members were in attendance, including his widow Jenny, mother and siblings, and his cousin Nick Nemec. Scott Heideperm, who is representing Boever’s widow Jenny in a civil case, also declined to comment after.

Nemec said that he did not find the not guilty pleas surprising, but he did find them troubling.

“It is unfortunate it drags on and drags on,” Nemec said. “I made a vow, I am going to show up every time I have to. Its not going to take a big dig into the mountain to prove him guilty to these misdemeanor charges... They’ve got him dead to rights using his cellphone while driving.”

When announcing the charges, prosecutors explained why more serious charges were not brought.

“In order for Ravnsborg to be found criminally liable for Mr. Boever’s death, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ravnsborg’s driving was reckless. Negligent driving would not be enough to amount to criminal charges in the state of South Dakota.”

Ravnsborg claims he did not see Boever that night and maintains he thought he hit a deer. even though an investigation video released by the state revealed Boever’s glasses were found inside his car.

Ravnsborg may face impeachment for his role in the crash, though lawmakers decided to push back any hearings until after his criminal case is wrapped up.

Governor Kristi Noem and several major law enforcement organizations have called for Ravnsborg to resign, though he has signaled he intends to remain in office.

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