The South Dakota House of Representatives has begun impeachment proceedings against state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg over an incident in which he struck and killed a man with his car.
(CN) — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg faces impeachment by state lawmakers after he was charged with three misdemeanors for striking and killing a man with his car this past September.
The impeachment effort follows a five-month investigation into the Mount Rushmore State’s top law enforcement officer and his involvement in a fatal car accident that killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever.
Ravnsborg, a Republican who was first elected in 2018, struck and killed Boever Sept. 12 while driving home late in the evening after a fundraiser. Boever was walking alongside the shoulder of the highway when Ravnsborg’s vehicle struck and killed him.
Ravnsborg reportedly told authorities he thought he had stuck a deer or large animal and claims to have stepped out of his car to search the nearby area with a cellphone flashlight. He claims it wasn’t until he returned to the scene the next day that he became aware he had struck a person and was reportedly not clear with law enforcement officials on why he swerved onto the highway shoulder.
After a lengthy investigation, prosecutors charged Ravnsborg with class 2 misdemeanors — careless driving, making an illegal lane change and operating a vehicle while using a cellphone roughly a minute before the fatal collision. He faces no felony charges.
But Ravnsborg has faced a chorus of voices calling for him to resign. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem called on the AG to step down just hours before South Dakota lawmakers began impeachment proceedings.
“Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the attorney general should resign,” the GOP governor said Tuesday morning in a statement.
Ravnsborg, who has resisted calls to resign thus far, faces two articles of impeachment from South Dakota lawmakers. The first relates to the misdemeanors the AG is charged with that resulted in the death of Joseph Boever, while the other concerns Ravnsborg’s conduct and the statements he made following the accident.
The impeachment effort in the South Dakota House of Representatives appears to be backed by bipartisan support and can succeed in the house with only a simple majority.
“The attorney general has a special obligation to follow the laws and protect the public,” Republican Representative Will 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.”
If the House votes to impeach, the proceedings go to the state Senate where a two-thirds majority must vote to convict to remove Ravnsborg from his post. If that happens, his successor would be chosen by Noem.
Regardless how the impeachment effort plays out in the South Dakota Legislature, Ravnsborg must still contend with his three misdemeanor charges in Hyde County. If convicted, the attorney general faces up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine for each charge.
Boever’s widow has also said she intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Ravnsborg in the future.
Ravnsborg’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment by press time Tuesday afternoon.