One Republican willing to run interference for killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is Representative Greg Jamison (R-12/Sioux Falls), who signals that he doesn’t want to get into impeaching public officials over a couple of piddly traffic violations:
Pollsters hired by South Dakota News Watch in October found that 66.8% of South Dakotans surveyed support removing Ravnsborg from office following his conviction of two misdemeanor traffic charges stemming from a crash that killed a pedestrian in September of 2020.
But neither of the charges now on Ravnsborg’s record — a lane violation and texting while driving — amounted to criminal culpability for Joseph Boever’s death. That’s why support for impeachment isn’t as resounding among some House members, who question whether two traffic tickets are grounds to oust South Dakota’s top prosecutor.
“There’s a huge precedent that’s going to get set by doing this, looking at traffic misdemeanors,” said Rep. Greg Jamison, R-Sioux Falls, who volunteered he wasn’t among the two-thirds of the House to sign onto the petition calling for the Special Session on Impeachment [Joe Sneve, “After Months of Talk, South Dakota Legislature to Decide Attorney General Impeachment, Redistricting,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2021.11.08].
Maybe a couple of traffic misdemeanors do not warrant overturning an election—although one could argue that inability to diligently and constantly follow the law disqualifies one from crafting and enforcing the law—but only the most deliberately tunneled vision will allow any legislator to suggest that tomorrow’s impeachment discussions in Pierre are about nothing but a couple of minor traffic infractions. Jason Ravnsborg drove irresponsibly and killed a man. Right before his plea bargain and sentencing, Ravnsborg was caught in Pierre speeding and driving without a license. Ravnsborg’s behavior since that killing has caused him to lose the confidence of law enforcement officials and the press around the state. And we’re not even getting into Ravnsborg’s inability to read and follow the law.
Perhaps Representative Jamison is worried that impeachment on the grounds of traffic misdemeanors could lead the Legislature to a moral obligation to unseat its own members who drink and drive. But tomorrow’s Special Session will set precedent no matter what. Representative Jamison should seek to set a precedent toward holding public officials accountable for bad behavior that destroys public trust, not shielding such misbehaving officials from accountability.