South Dakota Senate Approves Ravnsborg impeachment rules

The South Dakota State Senate unanimously agreed to the rules to put into place for the impeachment trial of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
The South Dakota State Senate finalized the rules that they will use to guide them through the impeachment trial of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 1:15 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota Senate has approved the rules for an impeachment trial of the state’s attorney general for his conduct surrounding a 2020 fatal car crash.

The rules provide a basic framework for how the trial will be conducted in the Senate over the course of two days.

“It is a historic and unfortunate situation that brings us all here to do the task we are called upon to do,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown).

The Senate unanimously agreed to adopt the rules, which in part will allow both the prosecution and Ravnsborg’s defense attorney to have one hour for opening arguments, four hours to present evidence, and one hour for closing arguments.

Ravnsborg will not be required to attend. However, should he chose to do so, he will be given as much time to testify as he so chooses.

“This is neither a criminal nor civil proceeding, it is a constitutionally prescribed impeachment trial that you serve on and decide on based on your office in the State Senate,” Schoenbeck continued. “You should decide on it as you see appropriate in fulfilling the duties of your office.”

Ravnsborg will be represented by Sioux Falls defense attorney Mike Butler. The prosecution will be represented by Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo and Clay County State’s Attorney Alexis Tracy.

The Senate will ultimately vote on two separate articles of impeachment. One regarding “crimes causing the death of Joe Boever,” and the other for “malfeasance in office following the death of Joseph Boever.” The second charge accuses Ravnsborg of lying to law enforcement, and using his office to benefit him personally going into the investigation.

Senator David Wheeler (R-Huron) says that the Senate began crafting their rules last year, when the impeachment resolution against Ravnsborg originally came to a head in the house. Given that the South Dakota Senate has never conducted an impeachment trial, Wheeler says he looked to other states who had conducted one, including North Dakota and Arizona.

“The Senate is focusing on transparency, we want to make sure everyone sees what we are doing in the open and that the process is fair,” Wheeler explained. “Each side will have the opportunity to present their case. We are not going to limit the types of evidence except for the basic relevancy requirements, and some basic time limits. We believe that everyone will have the opportunity to present their case fully.”

The impeachment trial is set to take place in the State Senate chamber on June 21st and 22nd.

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