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Judge Sentences Ravnsborg: $1,000 Fine, $3,742 to County, Public Service on Next Five Anniversaries of Joe Boever’s Death

In a hearing this morning in the Stanley County courthouse in Fort Pierre, South Dakota, Attorney General pled no contest to two of the three traffic charges brought against him for the September 12, 2020 car crash in which he killed pedestrian Joseph Boever.

In response, Judge John Brown (as webcast live via audio on KSFY-TV’s website) denied the defense’s request for suspended imposition of sentence and sentenced Ravnsborg to pay the maximum $500 fine plus court costs (it sounded like under $100) for each charge, driving while using a mobile device and driving out of the proper lane. Judge Brown also ordered Ravnsborg to pay $3,742.38 to reimburse Hyde County for costs related to the case. Defense attorney Tim Rensch, speaking for Ravnsborg, who did not appear in court today, argued the county costs were regular investigation costs for which statute does not make defendants liable, but Judge Brown ruled that the high-profile nature of this case created additional costs for securing and investigating the scene of the car crash.

Judge Brown denied the request of Boever’s mother for restitution for funeral costs. He noted that the family received a payout from Boever’s life insurance that covered the funeral costs. Other restitution claims, said Judge Brown, are more properly handled through a wrongful death civil action, which Boever’s widow has signaled is coming.

Judge Brown noted that the defense is correct in arguing that jail time is not available now that the defendant has pled no contest to these two misdemeanors. Judge Brown thus issued no jail time for these charges, which each could carry a maximum of 30 days in county jail.

However, Judge Brown did sentence Ravnsborg to perform a “significant public service event” once a year for five years on or around the anniversary of Joseph Boever’s death. Rensch immediately challenged that portion of the sentence, asking the judge how he could extend a sentence past the minimum jail time prescribed by law for the charges. Judge Brown said he is working from an analogy to probation, which can extend beyond jail time. Rensch replied that such extended probation time is allowed only in cases of suspended sentences and suspended imposition. Rensch said he appealed a case on that issue just a couple years ago. Judge Brown asked the defense to submit that case to him and to the state by the beginning of next week so that he can review the five-year public-service portion of his sentence.


  1. kurtz 2021-08-26 10:41

    Ravnsborg’s career in politics is over but real justice would come from the military that would court-martial him and throw him out.

    Expect the SDGOP to nominate Marty Jackley to run for AG. Brendan Johnson should be our candidate for that post so he wouldn’t have to move his family to Pierre or worse, DC.

    Having an ethics-focused Democratic AG would be a powerful counterweight to Kristi Noem’s recklessness.

  2. Dicta 2021-08-26 11:12

    Over/Under 50% that Ravnsborg runs again anyway? Also, HI JASON! Please put the phone down if you are driving!

  3. Richard Schriever 2021-08-26 11:44

    Dicta – he’ll run again claiming the “unfairness” of “renegade judges” as an issue.

  4. mike from iowa 2021-08-26 12:11

    Surprised Ravnsborg’s lawyer didn’t asked the court to reimburse is client for wasting his time preparing a defense in a case everyone figured he’d get virtually zilch for punishment.

  5. grudznick 2021-08-26 14:09

    If Mr. Ravnsborg doesn’t self-tar-and-feather himself and show it on the TickingTocks, grudznick will be very dissapointed.

  6. Dicta 2021-08-26 14:18

    Well, it looks like he will run again, if I am reading between the lines on his public statement correctly. Man, I really wish I lived in a world with few consequences for my bad acts.

  7. Guy 2021-08-26 14:21

    Ravnsborg v. Jackley would split the Republican vote, allowing Brendan Johnson to win the Attorney General seat. Kurtz is correct, a Democrat Attorney General Brendan Johnson would be Kristi Noem’s worst nightmare.

  8. Guy 2021-08-26 14:22

    Brendan Johnson for Attorney General? With his background, Brendan is a shoe-in for Attorney General.

  9. Dicta 2021-08-26 16:07

    No democrat is a shoe-in for any office in this state. Not saying that is desirable, but it is also true.

  10. Arlo Blundt 2021-08-26 17:30

    Justice was not done, in my opinion…another case of some of us being more equal than others before the law.

  11. Loren 2021-08-26 18:04

    I think each year, around the anniversary of Boever’s death, Jason ought to be instructed to stand on the shoulder of the road, near the site of the incident, while distracted drivers take turns motoring past. In the dark, of course, because fair is fair. What a load of bovine excrement!

  12. Guy 2021-08-26 18:53

    Kristi has to get puppet AG to replace Ravnsborg BEFORE the election. Kristi can NOT afford Ravnsborg to split the Republican ticket and allow someone like Brendan Johnson to win the Attorney General’s race next year.

  13. Neal 2021-08-26 21:53

    Guy, only one of them (Jason or Marty) will be on the general election ballot.

  14. Guy 2021-08-26 21:58

    Neal, true. But, they both have to go through a BRUISING Primary if Ravnsborg is not impeached and decides to run again. That primary could weaken Jackley and a Democrat, like Brendan Johnson, could then defeat a weakened Marty.

  15. Guy 2021-08-26 22:02

    Neal, it could happen because remember Billie Sutton almost defeated a weakened Kristi Noem who had to fight a tough primary battle with Marty Jackley. Brendan Johnson could run a strong united campaign against an unpopular Ravnsborg and Marty Jackley who has already been Attorney General with some serious baggage. Johnson could ask South Dakota voters: “Do you really want another term of Marty Jackley or how about a fresh start?” “Remember EB-5?”

  16. Guy 2021-08-26 22:07

    Brendan Johnson could also tout how he has fought to PRESERVE the WILL OF THE VOTERS by supporting their right to challenge Governor Noem over the Marijuana issue. Johnson could run a campaign that he will be the Attorney General that respects the will of the people. Do you think Jackley will support Amendment A? Johnson could challenge Marty: “Do you support the will of the voters and looking out for their interests or do you support the will of the Republican Party and only its interests?” Come on Democrats…Labor Day is fast approaching!

  17. Neal 2021-08-27 09:19

    Guy, the AG nominee is decided at the convention, not by way of primary.

  18. Guy 2021-08-27 09:32

    Neal, convention or primary does not matter. I think Brendan Johnson can defeat the Republican nominee, whoever that is. If I were the Democrats, I’d be recruiting Brendan. He stood up for the will of the voters on Amendment A.

  19. Guy 2021-08-27 09:37

    Brendan Johnson could win the Independent vote to swing the election. Brendan has a solid record in the U.S. Attorney’s office and he’s a hard-working, intelligent, and reasonable Democrat like his father Tim Johnson. Brendan could mount a strong campaign against any Republican. It would be the Independent vote that could decide who is the next Attorney General. There are a lot of Independents in South Dakota and they have swung elections in the past. The key in 2022 for Democrats: FOCUS ON THE INDEPENDENT VOTE and run a message tailored for them.

  20. Dana Hanna 2021-08-27 10:27

    What none of the news media gets is the real gift the State’s Attorney gave to the State’s Attorney General, one even more beneficial to him than dismissing the most serious charge of careless driving. They let him plead no contest. That is totally a discretionary choice by the prosecutor. A defendant does not have a right to plead no contest. They can only do so if the prosecutor agrees to a no contest plea. If he had pled guilty, that plea would be an admission and it would essentially decide the question of his liability in a civil wrongful death lawsuit. But a plea of no contest is not an admission. The Attorney General has not admitted to anything, as a matter of law. A no contest plea just means “I am not admitting to anything, not even these two minor misdemeanors, I am just agreeing not to contest the charges.” His no contest plea cannot be used against him in the victim’s family’s civil lawsuit against him. He can still go to trial in the civil case and argue he did nothing wrong and that man’s death was not his fault. I wonder if the defendant would have got that kind of a sweetheart deal if he had not been a Republican office holder. The fact that he is still the Attorney General of this state is a disgrace. The fact that the State’s Attorney let this man get a fine and no jail without having to admit any responsibility for an innocent man’s death is shameful.

  21. mike from iowa 2021-08-27 10:44

    Orenthal James Simpson was cleared of criminal charges and was found liable for over 30 million bucks in a civil trial.

  22. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-08-27 11:07

    Good point, Mr. Hanna. Ravnsborg’s classmate Emily Sovell allowed Ravnsborg to deny legal responsibility for his actions.

    Curious, Mr. Hanna—would you be interested in running for Attorney General?

  23. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-08-27 11:09

    Guy, which elections have independents swung in South Dakota?

  24. bearcreekbat 2021-08-27 12:12

    Dana’s analysis is right on, but I have one question: under SDCL 23A-7-2 doesn’t the judge also have to agree to allow a defendant to enter a nolo or no contest plea? If so, then in this case the Judge shares responsibility for exercising discretion that let Ravnsborg off the hook.

    As for the apparent abuse of prosecutorial discretion, the discretionary refusal to bring a reckless driving and 2nd degree murder case before the grand jury because of a fear that there might not be a conviction if the grand jury indicted stinks to high heaven. And in a case where someone was killed by a high profile defendant like the AG, especially a defendant who was the prosecutor’s classmate in law school, the prosecutor’s discretionary failure to recuse herself to avoid the appearance of bias is another inexplicable decision.

    It might be argued that based on the relatively minor actual charges against Ravnsborg that his plea and sentence is not really out of proportion or inappropriate. The weakness in that argument is that under the current state of the law on sentencing a judge can consider many factors in addition to the actual convictions when deciding upon a sentence, so long as the sentence remains within range allowed by the offenses that the defendant was convicted for. One of the factors is uncharged conduct.

    Here the uncharged conduct included reckless driving and manslaughter. If Judge Brown had rejected a nolo plea, Ravnsborg would have had to stand trial on all three misdemeanors, (although the prosecutor could have abitrarily dismissed any of those charges without the Judge’s consent).

    And if Ravnsborg had been convicted on any of the charges, then the Judge had the authority to take evidence at sentencing to determine (by a mere preponderance of the evidence) whether Ravnsborg acted recklessly and killed a victim. If I am not mistaken the Judge could also have appointed a special prosecutor to present that evidence if the plea bargain prosecutor refiused to do so. If satisfied with the sufficiency of that evidence at sentencing the Judge then could have enhanced the sentence based on the uncharged conduct and imposed whatever maximum jail time the statutes of conviction allowed, along with an order that this jail time be served consecutively.

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