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Ravnsborg Missed Chance to Block Release of Investigation Videos Because Defense Attorney Was Out of State

DFP Preserves Ravnsborg Videos; Release Serves Public Interest

We might never have gotten a look at killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s police interviews if his lawyer hadn’t been distracted.

Bob Mercer posts the defense motion filed yesterday that secured Judge John Brown’s order removing the videos from the Department of Public Safety website (and, it appears, from the DPS YouTube channel) and slapping a gag order on DPS, law enforcement, and any member of state government from releasing any further information related to State v. Ravnsborg and the three misdemeanor charges our Attorney General faces for the actions that led to pedestrian Joe Boever’s instant death on Highway 14 on September 12. Judge Brown specifically named Governor Kristi Noem as one of the state government members who need to keep their traps shut about Ravnsborg, just hours after the Governor promised to release more information from the investigation of the fatal crash.

As the Governor’s Secretary of Public Safety Craig Price said yesterday at the Governor’s side, releasing the Ravnsborg investigation videos was legal and proper because they deal with a public official in a case of enormous public interest. Price’s contention fits the argument offered by Mercer himself in November 2013 when he requested the release of records from the investigation of the suspicious death of former state economic development secretary Richard Benda. Then-Attorney General Marty Jackley agreed that the Benda case was of great public interest and agreed to give the media access to redacted Benda investigation records if Benda’s family gave consent. The only reason Mercer did not get those records was that Benda’s family wouldn’t consent to the release. The courts acknowledged that state officials have discretion to release such documents and may impose conditions like Jackley’s on their release; had Mercer met those conditions, the release would have been legal.

In the Ravnsborg case, the public interest is even greater than in the Benda case, because Ravnsborg is a sitting elected official and our top law enforcement officer. In the Benda case, Mercer was just trying to get access to documents on Benda’s death, not on the crimes Benda committed in South Dakota’s corrupt EB-5 program. In the Ravnsborg case, we are concerned with whether Ravnsborg himself committed a crime and then lied to the public about it. As Secretary Price, a former Highway Patrol chief, said yesterday, the badge Ravnsborg has on his dashboard “carries significant responsibilities” and “requires us to have honor, integrity, character and requires us to tell the truth every single time.”

In apparent nod to the Mercer/Jackley precedent, the Governor obtained consent from Joe Boever’s family to release the Ravnsborg interviews, which contained horrifying details about Boever’s death. She promised to obtain that consent for releases of further information. The Governor wasn’t required to adopt that condition, but is was nice of her.

Given the clear public interest served by the release of these investigation materials, and given that the court can’t recork that bottle, I repost the videos the state legally released:

Video #1: September 14, 2020:

Video #2: September 30, 2020:

Ravnsborg’s defense motion cites the Mercer/Jackley ruling, ignoring the court’s recognition of the state’s right to release such information in the public interest and instead misrepresenting the Mercer precedent as an argument for protecting the defendant’s right to a fair trial. No right to fair trial was at stake in the Benda case. There is definitely an argument to be had that Ravnsborg can’t get a fair trail in this state, although that argument could have been made before the state’s release of the Ravnsborg videos Tuesday, based solely on pre-trial publicity (and, maybe on the prosecution side, the rampant Republican cronyism that could insulate any prominent Republican in this one-party state from being held accountable), but Mercer doesn’t make that argument; Mercer is all about public interest versus privacy, and in the Ravnsborg case, Ravnsborg as a public official has far less claim to privacy with respect to his criminal actions than did Richard Benda’s family with respect to autopsy records and other information about his untimely demise.

Ravnsborg nonetheless won this brief victory in court, shutting down the state’s distribution of documents of public interest. However, Ravnsborg could have stopped those videos from hitting the press if he’d picked a lawyer who didn’t go travel during the height of his case. Attorney Timothy J. Rensch of Rapid City is defending Ravnsborg. In his motion, Rensch notes that he would have filed for a gag order Tuesday if he hadn’t been out of state:

On Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021, the undersigned was informed that Governor Kristi Noem was going to have a press conference regarding Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg and release information created during the criminal investigation process.

The undersigned sent an email to the prosecutor and to the Court requesting immediate relieg due to the emergent nature of the situation.

At that time there was not sufficient information to file a formal motion, and the undersigned is out of state and was not able to coordinate such with his staff [Timothy Rensch, defense motion, State v. Ravnsborg, 2021.02.25, p. 1].

Talk about a bad week: the Governor and his party turn against him, and his own paid lawyer can’t stick around town to file motions to save his sorry keester from the Governor’s obvious pressure campaign and his ensuing public disgrace. Had Rensch been in town (or just better at leaving instructions for his law partners or getting on Zoom or whatever it takes to file a motion from the road), he could have gotten Judge Brown to issue his gag order by suppertime Tuesday, and none of us would have seen the videos and learned that Ravnsborg was scrolling through websites on his phone minutes, perhaps seconds before he hit Joe Boever with his car. None of us would know that investigators found Boever’s glasses inside Jason’s car, proving that Boever’s face went through Jason’s windshield. None of us would know that GPS and step data from Ravnsborg’s phone show that he walked past Boever’s body twice at the side of the road that night. None of us would know that Joe Boever’s flashlight was still on, lying beside him in the grass at the edge of the road and shining like, in the investigator’s word,  a “beacon”, and that Ravnsborg did not see that light in the darkness. None of us would know that Ravsnborg saw Boever’s pickup truck in the ditch but didn’t put two and two together that maybe what he had hit was not a deer but the owner of that truck.

Judge Brown’s gag order two days earlier would have withheld all those facts, at least temporarily, from the public. Judge Brown’s order, for the moment, prevents the state from releasing more facts about Jason Ravnsborg’s killing of Joe Boever and his subsequent statements inconsistent with those facts.

Governor Noem is headed out of state this weekend, so she, like Attorney Rensch, may be delayed in taking further action. But if she wants to continue her campaign to pressure Ravnsborg to resign, she may want to appeal Judge Brown’s gag order. The Mercer/Jackley precedent and the law in general are on her side. She has already beaten Ravnsborg in court once this year, and beaten him so soundly that he surrendered without appeal. Maybe the Governor will treat us again to the spectacle of challenging her own Attorney General in court… and this time, that challenge would be in the public interest.

Related Documents of Public Interest: Curiously, Ravnsborg sought the removal of the two interview videos from the DPS website, but he did not seek removal of the other information DPS has posted from its investigation of Ravnsborg’s killing of Joe Boever. In case he notices and asks Judge Brown to expand his gag order, here are all of the Ravnsborg documents DPS has posted so far:

  • Audio from Jason Ravnsborg’s 911 call, 2020.09.12:
Photo of Jason Ravnsborg's damaged Ford Taurus
Photo of Jason Ravnsborg’s damaged Ford Taurus

26 Comments

  1. John 2021-02-26

    Thank you, Corey. If only South Dakota had a press more interested in news than selling advertising.

    “the basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” T. Jefferson, https://tjrs.monticello.org/letter/1289

  2. Andy 2021-02-26

    The horses are long gone out of that barn. Given the enormous and expansive nation-wide media coverage of this, I doubt there are many jury-worthy SDakotans who aren’t “contaminated” at this point or won’t be soon. Judge Brown’s order just makes it worse by making people think the state is engaging in more cover-up and is going to assist in spreading this even further.

  3. ds 2021-02-26

    OMG, perhaps Kristi will direct her still-Attorney General Ravnsborg to challenge the ruling on releasing any more information???

  4. grudznick 2021-02-26

    Would that not be hilarious? Mr. Ravnsborg arguing in court on his own movies.

    Mr. H, they may try to take the movies away from you too. Squirrel a copy away on the googles

  5. chris 2021-02-26

    I’m kind of dumb now because I can’t read DFP as well as before after the site layout changed, so I haven’t been keeping up. Just wondering what bit of DFP Ravnsb0rg was viewing that night. ?

    https://www.rawstory.com/jason-ravnsborg-2650812730/

    […Detectives examined Ravnsborg’s phone records and found that he logged into his Yahoo! email account at 10:20 p.m. on Sept. 12, and moments later was viewing an article on the Dakota Free Press website. ]

  6. Mark Anderson 2021-02-26

    You know Cory, he may blame you, although me may have been reading Grudznick.

  7. DaveFN 2021-02-26

    Did anyone else note the parapraxis in Video #2 at 1:20:15?

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-02-26

    Dave, Ravnsborg is such a stumblebum speaker, I’m not ready to ascribe too much intent to occasional misfires of his mouth. But tell us what you’re hearing there.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-02-26

    Chris, interesting question. On September 12, Ravnsborg would have seen (in order of recency)…

    1. Local Butcher Shops Deserve Support… But Do They Need Coronavirus Relief Dollars?
    2. OSHA Fines Smithfield 0.023% for Social Costs of Sioux Falls Coronavirus Outbreak
    3. Legislators Suggest More Coronavirus Relief for More Small Businesses and Farmers, Scrimmage with Noem over Spending Authority
    4. Sales Tax Up; Noem Making Millions in Interest on Coronavirus Relief Fund
    5. Biden Inspiring Thune to Rediscover Deficit Hawkishness?

    Given that the first headline there was the only post I put up that Saturday, it’s possible Jason simply thumbed to DFP (obviously on his speed-dial/bookmark list) to see if anything new had been posted since he’d checked out my work on the way to Redfield, saw that I hadn’t put up a Saturday evening post, and decided to go read Just the News’s wild and ultimately feckless anti-Biden propaganda.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-02-26

    Grudz, Jason can’t find a shining flashlight at the side of the road in pitch darkness. How do you think he’ll find my digital backups? What’s he going to do: ask Judge Brown for a search warrant and ask the cops who no longer trust him to come shake me down?

    The scariest possibility is that he’d drive here in person, checking his phone the entire way.

  11. Yvonne 2021-02-26

    So, a question on $’s this state received from feds if anyone knows. Wasn’t that money to be spent for covid matters before December 31, 2020 to help the businesses AND the people of this state. If so, why is it sitting in a general fund to be bilked away by those in control of it?

  12. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-02-26

    In Redfield, he had a steak and a Coke. That’s it. He never mentions drinking water there on the road. Dehydration?

    I think future Governors and Attorney Generals could be more innovative just by staying in one place, thinking and drinking water! Zooming and not driving.

  13. Rlm 2021-02-26

    Look at his body language. He’s dissembling and trying to minimize his actions. And he has to be the worst attorney on the planet to not have an attorney representing him in this

  14. Cody 2021-02-26

    1:30:08 “We didn’t look at him real close the next morning EITHER”..He then quickly corrected himself and went back to that same nervous tone of trying to wiggle out.

  15. Cody 2021-02-26

    Corey, Of course he saw the flashlight the night of the accident. He knew exactly what was going on.

    I hope you weren’t serious

  16. DaveFN 2021-02-27

    Cory, many of several possibilities and without having access to the unconscious contents of Ravnsborg’s mind (dreams and other unconscious formations), any must be considered provisional at best (even with such access caution is advised).

    “Why are you telling me it was a man (although I prefer to think I only hit a deer) when I know it was a man?” bears some similarity to Freud’s well-known Jewish joke “Why are you telling me that you are going to Lemberg, when you are actually going to Lemberg?”

    Ravnsborg’s interrogators fail to accept the insistence of his intentionally fantasmatic discourse “I thought it was a deer,” making Ravnsborg’s discourse all the more insistent, up to the time of this parapraxis in which Ravnsborg indeed refers to the corpse of Joe Boever as a deer. Thus is constituted a failed realization of an unconscious desire that the corpse of Joe Boever was indeed the non-existent deer in an attempt to censor reality and prove the interrogators wrong.

  17. Cody 2021-02-27

    Here is a case of a distracted driving accident that ended with a fatality.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.argusleader.com/amp/6054671

    Here’s an excerpt: “A Sioux Falls man who killed a motorcyclist in 2012 while speeding and texting on Minnesota Avenue was given a nine-year prison sentence Tuesday.”

    Pretty clear to me the AG got preferential treatment.

  18. Yvonne 2021-02-27

    I remember when, in, 2003, when prior Governor Janklow–while a Congressman, was charged with 2nd degree vehicular homicide when he was speeding(as he always did); ran a stop light, collided with a motorcyclist killing the cyclist. It appears average sentence for that cause of death is 7 years in prison. Janklow received 100 days in local jail, and paid a fine. Woo woo. He was on record as a felon. Here, this vehicular death in Sioux Falls resulted in a much heavier sentencing of the perpetrator…not a high profile case I guess. Yet, this states’ attorney general, Ravensborg, was charged with just two misdemeanors? This us not a slap on the wrist, it’s a pinky pinch. There has been no felony charges as was the charges against Janklow and this Sioux Falls purp. What’s wrong with this picture?
    A judging by Public opinion, most of the time, however, is worse than what a judge could just possibly sentence. Time will set the fate for Mr. Ravnsborg.

  19. grudznick 2021-02-27

    Ms. Yvonne, Mr. Ravnsborg was charged with 3 misdemeanors, I believe. Like most, grudznick thinks that young Ms. Sovell really screwed up the pooch here, but I wanted to be accurate by correcting your statement by 50%.

    The opinions of the public will crush Mr. Ravnsborg’s fragile psychic apparatus.

  20. Yvonne 2021-02-27

    Sounds good, hence my ? mark after (two). Wasnt quite sure. Thanks

  21. Rlm 2021-02-27

    Body language— pushing himself back into the wall, head down, minimal eye contact, stammering, dry mouth, lots of hand movements
    He’s the effing AG, and he wasn’t smart enough to engage counsel to sit next to him . See the brilliance of having an attorney when you know what you did is wrong

    https://youtu.be/iK-Yy2G4oH8

  22. Jenny 2021-02-28

    If you look at statistics in driver pedestrian deaths, both MN and SD have a history of being lax in charges if the driver wasn’t under the influence.

  23. Cody 2021-02-28

    To his credit though he did not get defensive with the investigators, nor did he lose his temper. I will give him that.

  24. grudznick 2021-02-28

    Mr. Cody, you have to admit he whined a lot. Mr. Ravnsborg, the fellow talking extensively, did really put his head down and whine. A whole lot. Very un-lawyerly. Oh wait, did you fellows realize he hisownself is an attorney?

  25. Yvonne 2021-02-28

    Proud or humbled? Imagine this exposay:
    My fellow law enforcement officers. I am humbled to be here to have this opportunity to present my side and will be proud of you knowing that, after I present the facts supporting my side, you will likely come to the conclusion that these words are being falsely represented all on your own.

  26. Yvonne 2021-02-28

    “THE CONSTITUTION: ‘GOD GOVERNS THE AFFAIRS OF MEN ‘ “. Benjamin Franklin.

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