Who knew that impeachment would become the national pastime? Fresh off of Donald Trump’s second season, the minor leagues appear ready to launch. In the Democratic League, Andrew Cuomo might get drafted by his state legislature, while South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has a tryout coming in the Republican League — soon. Ravnsborg appears to have lied about a fatal traffic accident last year, and now everyone wants him out, but he’s not going anywhere at the moment:
Days after South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg fatally struck a man while driving in September, detectives told the Republican official they had found a pair of broken reading glasses inside his Ford Taurus. They belonged to the man he killed.
That was a problem, detectives said, because Ravnsborg, 44, said he didn’t know he had hit a man until the following day, when he returned to the scene and found the body of Joseph Boever, 55, in a ditch.
“They’re Joe’s glasses, so that means his face came through your windshield,” one of the detectives said in an interview released by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety on Tuesday.
The interviews raise questions about the conduct of the state’s top law enforcement official in the Sept. 12 incident, giving fuel to a chorus of lawmakers demanding he leave office. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed two articles of impeachment against Ravnsborg, who has since been charged with three misdemeanors, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) called for his resignation.
Noem had been cautious not to tip her hand on Ravnsborg until after the investigation had been completed. After prosecutors charged him, Noem came down firmly on Ravnsborg’s ouster, one way or another:
Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the Attorney General should resign. I have reviewed the material we are releasing, starting today, and I encourage others to review it as well.
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) February 23, 2021
Boever’s family wants a more significant penalty than the loss of Ravnsborg’s job. His cousin claims that prosecutors “undercharged” Ravnsborg and that he should face involuntary manslaughter charges. That does appear to be a bit curious, especially as it now seems that Ravnsborg had reason to believe he had hit a man almost immediately. Ravnsborg claimed that neither he nor the responding officers at the time found a body or an animal, which he claims to have thought at first, but animals do not wear glasses, obviously. The report indicates that Ravnsborg was “distracted,” although it doesn’t specify what the distraction was:
UNIT #1 WAS TRAVELING WESTBOUND ON US HWY 14. UNIT #1 DRIVER WAS DISTRACTED. UNIT #1 ENTERED THE NORTH SHOULDER WHILE TRAVELING WESTBOUND. UNIT #2 (PEDESTRIAN) WAS WALKING ON THE NORTH SHOULDER. UNIT #2 WAS STRUCK BY UNIT #1. UNIT #2 WAS CARRYING A LIGHT. THE EXACT TIME OF CRASH IS STILL UNDER INVESTIGATION. THE TIME OF LAW ENFORCEMENT ARRIVAL IS ESTIMATED AS THE RESPONDING SHERIFF DID NOT ADVISE DISPATCH WHEN HE ARRIVED. THE PEDESTRIAN WAS TRANSPORTED FROM THE SCENE BY THE CORONER. INFORMATION FOUND DURING THE INVESTIGATION INDICATES A DRIVER DISTRACTION. THE SPECIFIC DISTRACTION IS STILL UNDER INVESTIGATION.
Perhaps the fact that Ravnsborg didn’t drive off without getting police out there first to check the scene out led prosecutors to pursue the misdemeanor charges. Neither of them found the victim, and it was Ravsnborg who found and reported the body the next day. If you watch the interviews, which have been released on YouTube, Ravnsborg appears cooperative and sounds sincere about trying to be helpful. Nevertheless, it’s going to look like the state took it easy on their top law-enforcement officer, whether that’s fair or not.
And that’s the reason why it would be best for everyone to have Ravsnborg step down under the circumstances. If he clears his name in court, Ravnsborg can try to restart his political career, but that seems unlikely at the moment, and the business of South Dakota’s residents should get an AG’s full attention.