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Gosch Might Withhold Ravnsborg Evidence from Fellow Legislators; Public Widely Supports Impeaching Joe Boever’s Killer

Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch has chosen eight East River Representatives to serve on the Special Investigative Committee that will recommend whether the full House should impeach Joe Boever’s killer, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, at its Special Session next Tuesday, November 9:

  • House Majority Leader Kent Peterson, R-19/Salem
  • Rep. Jamie Smith, D-15/Sioux Falls
  • Rep. Ryan Cwach, D-18/Yankton
  • Rep. Mike Stevens, R-18/Yankton
  • Rep. Steven Haugaard, R-10/Sioux Falls
  • Rep. Doug Barthel, R-10/Sioux Falls
  • Rep. Kevin Jensen, R-16/Canton
  • Rep. Jon Hansen, R-25/Dell Rapids

Out of 70 Representatives, Speaker Gosch has chosen both of the House members from Yankton, Ravnsborg’s hometown. Of course, both Cwach and Stevens are lawyers, as are Haugaard and Hansen. Barthel is a former police chief. Jensen, Peterson, and Smith have no lawyering or law enforcement background… but it doesn’t take a law degree to recognize that Ravnsborg is unfit for office.

Speaker Gosch tells the press that he will preside over the Special Investigative Committee but vote only to break ties. Gosch also says he wants to continue keeping the investigation materials secret, maybe even from other legislators:

Now that litigation tied to the case is resolved, the Legislature is free to move forward, Gosch said. But it will be the determination of the committee on how to proceed and what information it will seek and make available to the public and other House members.

“This is going to require a lot of patience on behalf of all members,” said Gosch, who wouldn’t commit to granting access to investigation materials to other lawmakers.

The Speaker specifically stated that materials like autopsy photographs and potentially correspondence between investigators are not likely to be made public [Joe Sneve, “South Dakota House Speaker Reveals Which Lawmakers Will Probe Attorney General Ravnsborg Impeachment,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2021.11.02].

Representative Will Mortenson (R-24/Pierre), who has prominently called for the impeachment of his fellow Republican Ravnsborg, properly recognizes the need to share that investigation file:

“While the committee will hold the hearings, every member owes it to their constituents to review the investigative file that was delivered to the Legislature. No one gets to play hide-the-ball,” he said. “We can only show the public that we’re being fair and thorough if the process is transparent” [Sneve, 2021.11.02].

The Legislature may not need to release any information to sell the public on removing Ravnsborg from office. SD News Watch and the Chiesman Center for Democracy commissioned Mason-Dixon to call 500 registered South Dakota voters late last month and found that 67% support impeaching Ravnsborg. Only 14% are opposed, while 19% have apparently been too focused on football and Fox News to decide a matter of utmost importance to their own state. There’s majority support for impeachment among both Democrats (72%) and Republicans (64%). Conservative Northern State University government prof Jon Schaff is not surprised at the widespread conclusion that Ravnsborg can’t do his job:

“When a high-ranking government official, especially the chief law enforcement official of the state, hits and kills somebody, whatever the legal liability may be, it sort of damages your credibility as you represent the state in a court of law, and one big question is, ‘How can this guy operate effectively moving forward?’” Schaff said [Bart Pfankuch, “Poll Shows Strong Public Support for Impeachment of S.D. Attorney General,” South Dakota News Watch, 2021.11.02].

Schaff and his somewhat more liberal USD counterpart Michael Card, who says Ravnsborg’s “post-accident behavior… fails the smell test,” agree the poll results indicate Ravnsborg’s political goose is cooked:

Card said the support for impeachment among Republican respondents does not bode well for Ravnsborg’s political future even if he is not impeached. Former Attorney General Marty Jackley, a Republican, has indicated he will seek the GOP nomination for the next attorney general election in 2022.

“It would seem that whether he’s impeached and removed from office or not, he’s got a tough road ahead of him to be re-elected,” Card said.

Schaff said Ravnsborg may have employed a solid legal defense in the fatal accident by denying responsibility and using lawyers to speak on his behalf. But the court of public opinion, he said, can judge people differently than would a court of law.

“What was a good legal strategy for him may not be a good political strategy for him,” Schaff said. “He basically lawyered up, and now people can say that he was evading responsibility, which from the legal side is the right thing to do, but politically is very problematic” [Pfankuch, 2021.11.02].

The poll results feel like a final nail in Ravnsborg’s coffin. Ravnsborg’s behavior since he killed Joe Boever have demonstrated he has no shame, but now that he has pushed his luck to the final extreme of impeachment, and now that his fate rests in the hands of legislators whose constituents support his removal 2 to 1, perhaps his pragmatism will kick in. Perhaps he will resign before the Special Session convenes and avoid the ignominy of becoming South Dakota’s first impeached official.

14 Comments

  1. Nick Nemec 2021-11-03

    The entire contents of the investigation, including the autopsy report must be released to the public. If they aren’t it keeps the public in the dark and feeds conspiracy therorists doing SD governance untold harm.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-11-03

    Nick, how do we pry those documents loose from Gosch? Could we get Smith, Cwach, Haugaard, Stevens, and Barthel to vote to publish that file?

  3. Cully 2021-11-03

    Since the autopsy was done by Ramsey County, can’t family request a copy of the autopsy from them and just release it?

  4. grudznick 2021-11-03

    Something here smells like these fellows will whitewash this under the rug, and declare in the small secret committee that there is no need for the full session of the legislatures to discuss or vote on this. grudzick just has a bad feeling about this.

  5. Guy 2021-11-03

    Well, Grudz. .. I guess we just have to let the process play out. . .time will tell.

  6. grudznick 2021-11-03

    Indeed, Mr. Guy, indeed. grudznick has learned over my many, many years of being impatient that I need to be more patient.

  7. Guy 2021-11-03

    I hope it’s a “well-balanced” breakfast, Grudz?

  8. Bob Newland 2021-11-03

    grudznutz has learned over many, many years of being a jerk that it needs to jerk it harder.

  9. RST Tribal Member 2021-11-03

    When I read this statement, “… it SORT OF damages your credibility as you represent the state in a court of law…” said Jon Schaff, a government professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen. The first reaction: Give me a break.

    The South Dakota Republican Party is a den of inbreeds, fools, crooks, traffic violators, and bad drivers. But they keep winning elections. Credibility does not seem to be a problem, as it seems the worst the politician the more votes they get.

    The “sort of” reference is the key descriptive attitude surrounding this whole sad killing. A person is dead. A tombstone marks his final resting place. The Republican litter sort of wants the runt to go away, mommy Gov barked in her 2 cents and sort of moved on to collecting seed and seeking other opportunities. The democrats sort of mouthed something, then when back to their place in the pecking order. The few people with a landline phone sort of gave indication something should be done with the killer: Impeach? Spank? Shun? What? He pled guilty to the traffic crimes he was charged with, paid his fines, now is sort of moving on filing lawsuits and avoiding upsetting the state powers to be without a credible concern.

    The legislator’s findings process plans to be conducted in a sort of open secretly manner calling for blindfolds and sort of “trust me” evidence presenting. Oh, by the way, nothing will be shared to sort of giving legislators cover for whenever, however, if ever they vote. The inbred Republicans want to sort of give the impression of getting the runt out as he soiled the party’s image, but not really. They at least want to give the appearance of kinda, sort of, tossing him to the curb.

  10. larry kurtz 2021-11-03

    Not just impeachment but removal is what the poll says yet the political will among Republicans in South Dakota’s Koch soaked legislature is more whimsical than trustworthy.

    In my home state a wet finger is far more reliable than any legislative committee is.

  11. ArloBlundt 2021-11-03

    Well…Grudznick’s Republican influences are pretty well honed…I agree that the Republican leadership would just as soon discard Ravensborg, if they get appropriate input into the Governor’s decision on the appointment of the next deaf and blind man, and, citing discretion and privacy concerns,direct that the details of this sorry case be buried and sealed in the State Archives for 50 years, when only approved Historians will be allowed to peruse the evidence. I find it interesting that only men who reside within 60 miles of Sioux Falls or in Ravensborg’s town of residence, Yankton, could be eligible to judge him. Are Republican women unworthy??? Apparently as unworthy of making judgement as Democrats.

  12. grudznick 2021-11-03

    That is an interesting observation, Mr. Blundt. I think they should consider putting young Ms. St. John on the committee, for she seems to be a fairly straight shooter and could bring a unique perspective not currently represented on this private grouping. She is a woman and brings her female perspective as a mom and wife and daughter, she is from a district pretty far away from Mr. Ravnsborg’s home town, and she is probably not a GOP insider. Appointing Ms. St. John to this secret committee would go a long ways to pacify those of us in the public who are dubious. Dubious, I say.

  13. OldTimerDon 2021-11-04

    Hey, what should the public think in the home of the corrupt and land of the money tree? South Dakota continues to impress the world with its level of integrity and honesty.

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