South Dakota Governor Calls on Attorney General to Resign Over Crash

Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota on Tuesday called on the state’s attorney general to resign, as lawmakers started impeachment proceedings against him and officials released videos of police interviews about the night he struck and killed a man with his car last year.

The attorney general, Jason R. Ravnsborg, who initially told the authorities that he had hit something that he believed was most likely a deer, has rebuffed the mounting pressure to resign.

Mr. Ravnsborg was charged last week with careless driving, using a mobile electronic device and failing to stay in his lane on the night of the crash last September. The charges are misdemeanors, and each carry a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Ms. Noem urged people to watch the videos released by the state, which show the attorney general being confronted by investigators, including one who makes a stark assertion about the victim’s impact, telling him, “We know that his face came through your windshield.”

The governor said in a brief statement that with charges filed and the investigation over, “I believe the attorney general should resign.” Both Ms. Noem and Mr. Ravnsborg are Republicans.

ImageGov. Kristi Noem is calling for the resignation of the state’s attorney general who is facing misdemeanor charges for striking and killing a man with his car.
Credit…Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader, via Associated Press

In the Statehouse, a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed a resolution to impeach Mr. Ravnsborg, writing that the attorney general had “a special obligation to the people and the laws of the state of South Dakota.” Mr. Ravnsborg, the resolution said, “must be removed from such office for his crimes or three misdemeanors in office causing the death” of the victim, Joe Boever.

Should a majority of House lawmakers advance the impeachment, it would require two-thirds of South Dakota’s state senators to remove him from office. The attorney general’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Days after the crash, Mr. Ravnsborg said in a statement that he had personally found the body of Mr. Boever. But the two videos provided the first examples of Mr. Ravnsborg, 44, a Republican who took office in Jan. 2019, telling the story of what happened that night on camera.

Special Agents of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who assisted in the investigation, conducted the interviews. In the first, from Sept. 14, Mr. Ravnsborg told investigators that he was driving home alone from a Republican Party dinner on the night of Sept. 12, and after passing through the town of Highmore, he accelerated to about 67 miles per hour on U.S. Highway 14.

“And then quite frankly, wham,” he said. “I hit, the incident happened. I never saw anything until the impact.” He said he jumped out of the car and called 911. He then hung up, used his phone’s flashlight and looked around the highway and the ditch. He took a photograph of the front of his vehicle.

“I am thinking it is a deer at this point but I did not see anything,” he told two investigators during the interview, adding that he did not see blood or fur from the impact, just debris from his car.

After the sheriff arrived, he made arrangements for a tow truck to haul the attorney general’s Ford Taurus away and lent a vehicle to Mr. Ravnsborg to drive home.

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Credit…South Dakota Department of Public Safety

The next morning, on his way to return the vehicle, Mr. Ravnsborg and a staff member stopped at the scene of the accident, splitting up on foot to look around, Mr. Ravnsborg said.

Mr. Ravnsborg went to the left. “I initially thought I saw, it looked like a fawn or a deer in the ditch,” he told investigators. “But then I come up. It was the man. And he is not good. I mean, he is dead.”

The two men then brought the sheriff, and the dead man was identified as Mr. Boever, 55, of Highmore, S.D. He had apparently been walking along the highway to his disabled truck.

When told by investigators in the first interview that they had found a pair of broken eyeglasses in his car, Mr. Ravnsborg could not say whether they belonged to him, even though he said he did not wear glasses.

In the second interview, on Sept. 30, Mr. Ravnsborg was told the eyeglasses belonged to Mr. Boever. “That means his face came through your windshield,” one of the investigators said. Mr. Ravnsborg said he had not seen blood or the eyeglasses.

“We know that his face came through your windshield,” one investigator said. The vehicle also had an imprint from at least part of the man’s body on the hood, an investigator said, adding that “at some point he rolls off and slides into the ditch.”

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Credit…South Dakota Department of Public Safety

“I never saw him,” Mr. Ravnsborg said.

Mr. Boever was also carrying a flashlight, which was still on when his body was found the next day. Mr. Ravnsborg said he had not seen that light on the side of the road, and that he “did not know that it was a man until the next day.”

“I think you had an idea that it was something other than a deer though,” an investigator pressed.

“I just believed it was a deer,” Mr. Ravnsborg replied.

Toxicology results showed no signs that Mr. Ravnsborg was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, prosecutors have said. The victim’s family has questioned why Mr. Ravnsborg was not tested on the night of the collision.

After the accident, Mr. Ravnsborg issued a statement saying that he was “shocked and filled with sorrow” and was “fully cooperating with the investigation.” He also offered his “deepest sympathy and condolences to the family” of the victim.

During one of the interviews, Mr. Ravnsborg defended his conduct, saying he had thought about what he might have done differently. “I am in an extremely tough spot,” he said. “But I believe I did not do anything wrong and I obviously replayed it in my mind about a thousand times.”

“I never saw it — now him, I have learned — or anything I hit, and I tried to react appropriately from there,” he said.

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