The South Dakota House voted on Tuesday to impeach state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg over a 2020 car crash he was involved in.
Ravnsborg killed a pedestrian but first said he could have hit a deer or other large animal.
The GOP Attorney General in August 2021 did not contest a pair of traffic offenses in the crash, including illegal lane changing. He called Joseph Boever’s death a tragic accident.
In a 36-31 vote, Ravnsborg, who took office in 2019, became the first official to be impeached in South Dakota history.
As a result, he will be suspended from office pending a trial in the Senate, which could lead to his permanent removal from office if a two-thirds majority votes to convict him.
Republican State Rep. Will Mortenson, who filed both articles of impeachment, said Tuesday’s vote would set a precedent.
“Never before in the history of our state has a state official criminally terminated the life of one of our citizens and refused to resign from that position,” Mortenson told the Room, according to the LA Times. “I think impeachment should only be reserved for serious and exceptional circumstances, and I think this is one of them.”
“Our senior law enforcement official misled law enforcement when investigating these crimes,” Mortenson added.
In a statement after the vote, Ravnsborg said, “I respect the process but look forward to the Senate trial where I think I will be vindicated.”
Last year, Ravnsborg’s attorney Tim Rensch said the AG ‘didn’t want this guy to die’ while insisting the fatal crash was accidental.
“Accidents happen, people die,” Rensch said. “No one blames the family for not loving the person involved very much.”
Prosecutors dropped a third reckless driving charge. Ravnsborg was fined $500 by a judge on each count and was also ordered to pay more than $3,000 to cover costs associated with securing the scene of the fatal wreckage. He was not sentenced to a prison term.
Rensch said it was “completely untrue” that Ravnsborg should have known he punched a man, saying he left the scene with no malicious intent and firmly maintained his innocence.
“I haven’t seen it,” Ravnsborg said. “I didn’t see anything. I didn’t know it was a human until the next day.
Last month, Republican Governor Kristi Noem increased pressure on lawmakers to impeach Ravnsborg, repeating her calls for him to be removed from office.
Noem applauded the House after Tuesday’s vote, write on twitter“Today the House of Representatives did the right thing for the people of South Dakota and for Joe Boever’s family.”
New York Post