South Dakota”;s Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to two of three misdemeanor charges in connection to a car crash last September that killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever. Boever had been walking down the side of the highway when Ravnsborg, distracted, drifted onto the shoulder and struck and killed him. At the time, Ravnsborg called 911 and reported having “;hit something.”; A sheriff came out and did a quick survey of Ravnsborg”;s car before giving him a ride and then loaning him a car for the night to get home. Boever”;s body was discovered the following day by Ravnsborg himself.
On Thursday, Ravnsborg, after a long and drawn out investigation, was able to cut a plea deal that keeps him out of jail. Circuit Judge John Brown fined Ravnsborg $500 for each count and ordered him to cover the $3,742 court costs. While Brown also ordered him to “do a significant public service event” every year on the anniversary of Boever”;s death, the Star Tribune reports that objections from Ravnsborg”;s attorney led to this condition being tabled until later arguments are heard. Boever”;s sister Jane told the news: “;We have waited 349 long days for this case to come to an end, and this is not the ending we hoped for. Our brother laid in the ditch for almost twelve hours.”;
According to investigators and prosecutors, Ravnsborg, while not impaired by any substances like alcohol or drugs at the time, seems to have been looking at his phone while driving at 67 mph on the highway. The speed limit in the area is 65 mph. Law & Crime reported that while Ravnsborg denied he was still on his phone when he drifted across his lane and killed Boever, investigators were able to piece together that the attorney general had been reading some kind of “;conspiracy”; article about Joe Biden and China. “;A minute later you were on the RealClearPolitics website. And then, about a minute later, um, this article was pulled up through the Just the News–;which could have been something that, you were on this and it had a link to click to get you to this one. Regarding this, it”;s an article about Joe Biden and something with China. You were on that at up to about, we”;re going to estimate, probably a minute before the accident, you were on that.”;
Investigators tried to question the veracity of Ravnsborg”;s claim that he had set down his phone (conveniently) about a minute before hitting Boever. The embattled South Dakota Republican steadfastly denied having been distracted by his phone at the time. He also claimed that he mostly just looks at headlines and not the actual body of the articles “;when I”;m driving.”; His 911 call to the dispatcher also supported his claims that he had not seen what he had hit when he drifted onto the shoulder, and the “;something”; he hit “;smashed my windshield.”;
Of course, if Ravnsborg wasn”;t on his phone and was just somehow drifting onto the shoulder, the fact that Boever”;s glasses were found inside of Ravnsborg”;s car means that the “;something”; that “;smashed”; his “;windshield”; was Boever”;s face. As one of the investigators said to him during a Sept. 30 interrogation: “;That means his face came through your windshield …; His face is in your windshield. Think about it.”; Ravnsborg has been consistent in saying he did not know he had hit a man, telling the agents: “;I did not know it was a man until the next day. I”;ll go to my grave saying that.”;
When Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek came out to speak with Ravnsborg by the side of the highway that night, he reportedly spent about 20 minutes there and then gave him a lift to the sheriff”;s home nearby, where Ravnsborg borrowed a car to get home. The day after the accident, Ravnsborg and his chief of staff, Tim Bormann, drove Volek”;s car back to Volek”;s place, but first went to gas the car up as a courtesy. On the way back, they stopped to check out the accident scene. it was at that point that Ravnsborg discovered Boever”;s body. The two men proceeded on to Volek”;s home less than half a mile from the crash site to report the finding.
Ravnsborg”;s lawyers had already began to create a story that Boever was depressed and suicidal and may have recently separated from his wife Jenny. Family spokesperson Nick Nemec said that while the family was very worried about Joe”;s reputation being attacked if a trial went forward against Ravnsborg, his widow was more than disappointed in the plea deal. “;She thinks it”;s a coward”;s way out. It”;s cowardly on the part of Ravnsborg and the prosecutor. She”;s disappointed the state”;s attorney did not go ahead with [the trial].”;
According to Nemec, Ravnsborg has never reached out to the family to apologize for what happened on that terrible night. And while this concludes the criminal justice actions against Ravnsborg, Boever”;s window is reportedly looking into filing a civil lawsuit against Ravnsborg. Rapid City attorney Greg Eiesland told Vanity Fair that the Boevers have a case. “;You might find that the investigation and criminal prosecution may have been handled much differently had the driver been a Native American rather than the attorney general. Just saying.”;
Gov. Kristi Noem was criticized by some for her eagerness to throw fellow Trump supporter Ravnsborg under the bus by having his investigation videos released to the press and calling on him to resign. Republican state House Rep. Phil Jensen told Vanity Fair : “;In my opinion, Gov. Noem was working behind the scenes to get rid of the AG so she could put her own person in there.”;
Ravnsborg has not resigned and is still facing impeachment in the state legislature. On Thursday, after not showing up to the sentencing hearing, Ravnsborg released a statement apologizing to Boever”;s family and then attacking the media and “;partisan opportunists”; for creating a false narrative of what happened.
Now Ravnsborg and his GOP allies in South Dakota are facing off against Noem”;s South Dakota wing of the Republican Party. According to the Tribune, Marty Jackley–;Ravnsborg”;s predecessor–;has thrown his hat back into the ring.
Statement from Jason Ravnsborg. pic.twitter.com/ZdncBEKUWL
–; Austin Goss (@AustinGossSD) August 26, 2021
Here is the transcript of Ravnsborg”;s statement.
On September 12, 2020, two families were changed forever.
First and foremost, I am very sorry Joe Boever lost his life in this accident.
I am sorry to the entire family for the loss of their loved one. They have had to deal with the pain, anger, and sadness of this accident. With respect for Joe, his family, and the judicial process, I have fully cooperated with the investigation from the beginning and refrained from making statements to the media.
While nothing I say will bring Joe back, I believe it”;s appropriate to share a few of my thoughts at this time.
Joe”;s death weighs heavily on me and always will. I”;ve often wondered why the accident occurred and all the things that had to have happened to make our lives intersect. I”;ve wished thousands of times our paths would have crossed under different circumstances.
The media has reported many untrue, and misleading things they want you to believe are facts. Partisan opportunists from both sides of the aisle have manufactured rumors, conspiracy theories and made statements in direct contradiction to the evidence all sides agreed upon. These are the same people who try to take others down at any cost.
I ran to be your attorney general because I believe in the law; I believe in fairness, due process, and doing what”;s right. Now, having experienced the legal system from both sides, I renew my commitment to be transparent and responsive to the needs of the people of South Dakota.
We have built an incredible team of hard-working professionals who seek to serve you in the Attorney General”;s office each day. We”;ve made significant accomplishments in record time.
We still face challenges. We will continue the dialogue about marijuana and how to regulate it. We”;re finalizing the terms of the $26 billion opioid settlement to address opioids and fentanyl and still battling the meth epidemic.
I do not know all the Lord has in store for me, but I trust in Him. As I continue my service as your attorney general, I”;ll keep fighting for you, just as I have since the day I took office. May God bless each of you, and may God continue to bless South Dakota.
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