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Break the Law, Kill a Man—That’s Fine for South Dakota Republicans. Ravnsborg Escapes Impeachment.

He broke the law and killed a man.

I can’t think of any more succinct and objectively damning statement that I could make about any elected official or candidate for office. Strip away all the personalities and party labels and consider the scenario in the abstract: we elect someone to office, and while in office, that someone breaks the law and kills a man. What do you do with that elected official? You fire him.

But not in South Dakota. Not when the elected official is a Republican.

Jason Ravnsborg, elected Attorney General of South Dakota in 2018, broke the law and killed Joe Boever on September 12, 2020. Ravnsborg was driving home at night from a campaign event. He was making phone calls and surfing the Internet on his phone while driving. He drove his car on the shoulder of Highway 14 coming out of Highmore and struck Joe Boever, who was walking at the edge of the highway with a lit flashlight. Boever’s head broke Ravnsborg’s windshield, and Boever’s glasses fell into Ravnsborg’s car before Boever’s body fell into the grass at the edge of the road. Ravnsborg stopped, called 911, and said he thought he’d hit a deer. He did not report seeing Boever. He did not report seeing Boever or Boever’s lit flashlight in the ditch. Sheriff Mike Volek saw the flashlight but ignored it, loaned Ravnsborg his personal car, and told him to leave the scene of the crime. Ravnsborg drove home to Pierre, then drove back the next morning with his chief of staff Tim Bormann to return the sheriff’s car. On the way out, Ravnsborg stopped at the crash site, found Joe Boever’s body, and reported the dead body to the Sheriff, who came to the scene and told Ravnsborg and Bormann to go home.

Jason Ravnsborg broke the law and killed Joe Boever. The two Democrats on the House Select Committee empaneled to consider impeachment needed just one page to express with legal and moral clarity that these actions and Ravnsborg’s subsequent untruthful statements to law enforcement about this lawbreaking and killing make him unfit to serve as South Dakota’s Attorney General:

Article XVI, § 3 of the South Dakota Constitution provides that state officers shall be liable to impeachment for “malfeasance or misdemeanor in office”. In State ex rel. Steffen v. Peterson, the South Dakota Supreme Court adopted the Minnesota Supreme Court’s definition of malfeasance, explaining that it “is not susceptible of an exact definition but it has reference to evil conduct or an illegal deed, the doing of that which one ought not to do, the performance of an act by an officer in his official capacity that is wholly illegal and wrongful.” State ex rel. Steffen v. Peterson, 607 N.W.2d 262, 268-69 (S.D. 2000).

A minority of the Select Committee finds that Attorney General Ravnsborg was, at a minimum, not forthcoming to law enforcement officers during the investigation. We find that the South Dakota Highway Patrol’s report and accident reconstruction was thorough, appropriate, and conducted within the bounds of accepted scientific practice. It was not contradicted. We adopt the South Dakota Highway Patrol’s report as our own for this minority report. We further find that Attorney General answered questions during his second interrogation on October 30, 2020, in a manner that misrepresented his cell phone usage prior to the accident. All law enforcement who interrogated Attorney General concluded that his statements were false or misleading and too inconsistent with other facts as to be believable. Law enforcement officers testified before the committee their opinion and belief that the Attorney General was not being truthful. We find that the law enforcement’s opinions are reliable, sincere, and credible based upon their experience and expertise as law enforcement officers. We further find that the Attorney General abused his power of office. The Attorney General used the resources of the office to understand how investigators would learn facts about his case. This is inappropriate and beyond the grasp of other individuals under criminal investigation. The people of this State have entrusted its law enforcement to the Attorney General, the highest law enforcement officer in the State. We expected the Attorney General to be fully truthful in his cooperation with law enforcement, as the people have entrusted him with the very responsibility of honest and effective law enforcement. We find that elected officers of the State are always “in office” as evidenced by his use of his official letterhead to issue his statement on September 14, 2020, and the Attorney General committed malfeasance when answering questions by law enforcement.

Accordingly, this minority report recommends articles of impeachment issue for malfeasance [emphasis mine, Representatives Jamie Smith and Ryan Cwach, Minority Report and Recommendations, House Select Committee on Investigation, 2022.03.28; posted online by Joe Sneve, “Jason Ravnsborg Should Not Be Impeached, Investigation Committee Says,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2022.03.28].

Jason Ravnsborg broke the law and killed a man, and then he lied to cops about it.

Down in Nebraska, Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry didn’t kill anyone. All he did was lie about his knowledge of foreign funds in his campaign account, but the moment he was convicted, his own party leaders, including Speaker of the U.S. House Kevin McCarthy and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, told Fortenberry he had to resign. And Fortenberry had enough good sense left to do so.

But in South Dakota, the whole system bowed to the R before Jason’s name. His law school classmate/prosecutor Emily Sovell declined to charge him with any felony, instead pursued three misdemeanor charges and accepted a plea deal that got Ravnsborg off with just two of three traffic violations, neither of which addressed his striking and killing a man with his vehicle, and no jail time. The impeachment committee heard testimony about the uncontested facts of the deadly crash, Ravnsborg’s deadly inattention, and his untruthfulness about his deadly actions from multiple law enforcement officers. Not one cop walked into the committee and said, “Oh, yeah, Ravnsborg’s right! Boever was out in the middle of the road, strung out on anti-depression meds and looking to kill himself. When his head was stuck in Ravnsborg’s windshield, Boever looked a lot like a deer. The wind blew all the debris from Ravnsborg’s car around. Everything Ravnsborg said to us was totally believable, just like we’d expect from a good Attorney General.” The Attorney General himself refused to communicate with the impeachment investigators.

But the Republicans on the committee generated 21 pages of excuses and evasions to justify recommending no impeachment. The Republicans cast doubt on Ravnsborg’s guilt and on the plain facts of the investigation—”It appears that his vehicle may have left his lane of travel.” Their majority report declares that distracted driving is dangerous but not impeachable. The Republicans declare that Ravnsborg’s “alleged” lying to police is not corrupt conduct. The Republicans invoke a 2009 case to say that “There is no man in official position so letter perfect in the law that he does not at some point… fall short of the strict statutory measure of his official duties.” The Republicans assert that Ravnsborg, who was convicted of two misdemeanors while in office, “did not commit misdemeanor in office.”

And after sixteen pages of making excuses for Ravnsborg, the Republican majority on the impeachment committee spend five pages criticizing Governor Kristi Noem and dark money outfits for pushing for Ravnsborg’s impeachment.

The Republicans can’t impeach a man who broke the law and killed a man, but “The Select Committee on Impeachment unequivocally condemns Governor Noem’s attempts to influence this committee.”

The Republicans’ moral and legal confusion on this matter is, to put it mildly, stunning and disheartening.

So if you’re planning to break the law in South Dakota and you have any concerns that you might kill a man, make sure you register Republican. That should keep you out of trouble.

But don’t try to influence the Legislature with any call for moral clarity. That nefarious behavior will earn you unequivocal condemnation.

29 Comments

  1. Scott Ehrisman 2022-03-29

    I have said from the beginning he will never resign and he will never be impeached. Do you honestly believe they would do this to one of their own? Not for a second.

  2. Loren 2022-03-29

    I’m shocked, I tell you, SHOCKED! /s

  3. Jenny 2022-03-29

    And that Is the sad story of the funny lookin’ bumbling AG from South Dakota that killed a man out yonder one time. Law and order don’t count much out in those parts when you’re in that Republican boys club. They don’t like Democrats much.

  4. larry kurtz 2022-03-29

    FWIW: Roger Tellinghuisen and another former Republican South Dakota attorney general endorsed Democrat Randy Seiler in 2018 because they knew Jason Ravnsborg is a criminal.

    No doubt Republicans traded a no-impeachment recommendation with the deal killer and incel Ravnsborg won’t seek re-election.

  5. Donald Pay 2022-03-29

    There is nothing new about Republican corruption in South Dakota. They do corruption well. They always get away with it. I was a bit surprised that Noem, who has her own problems with corruption, dug in on this. Apparently, her corruption ends when a life has been taken. I think we all suspected, though we all hoped to be wrong, that this would be the result.

    I did a lot of reading about corruption during the sewage ash scam. What I learned was corruption requires a crook and law enforcement willing to protect the crook. It also requires a complicit public–one willing to put up with corruption. In the case of Ravnesborg, the crook and law enforcement are the same. Will the people be complicit?.

  6. Phil 2022-03-29

    Reminds me of the classic Blues Brothers movie scene. Change the dialogue from “Illinois Nazi” to “South Dakota Republican,” and “Adolph Hitler” to “Donald Trump,” and that about sums it up. Correct me if I’m wrong, but seems like a guy in Aberdeen committed about the same crime about the same time, and he’s in prison now.

  7. larry kurtz 2022-03-29

    My comment about cocaine use and a Republican former SD AG was deleted but Mr. Newland’s is still up.

    Bob Newland
    2022-03-23
    By the way, my accrued bill to the Dept. of Revenue was $730. I paid an additional $1000 to the the Attorney General (Roger Tellinghuisen at the time, about whose cocaine use I had been vocal, the threads come together here). I was still offered an untenable choice in pleas.

  8. bearcreekbat 2022-03-29

    Bill Janklow must be rolling over in his grave. Oh how the Republican party has devolved!

  9. larry kurtz 2022-03-29

    Donald Pay is exactly right. South Dakota’s culture of corruption is baked right into Pierre’s pay to play pie.

    Frank Farrar was the architect of South Dakota’s dynasty trust industry. Bill Janklow put it into law then Denny Sanford and Dana Dickhouse Dykwhatever bought the rights and sailed into the sunset. Mrs. Noem is simply the Ghislane Maxwell of South Dakota.

  10. Eve Fisher 2022-03-29

    Coming soon to an election booth near you: Six Gutless Cowards.

  11. 96Tears 2022-03-29

    Jason Ravnsborg now goes into Jason Voorhees mode. Watch your dumb ass, Kristi. It’s The Night of the Long Knives, and you’ve been a naughty, naughty girl by:

    – Demanding bloody Jason resign or be impeached long before charges were filed for the violent homicide death at the hands of bloody Jason.
    – Turning over crucial and privileged video evidence that bloody Jason lied like a rug to investigators long before charges were filed.
    – Prejudicing the public before Jason’s trial with your tweets and statements declaring his guilt and unworthiness to hold public office (of course, you still fail to mention your own corrupt behavior disqualifying you for public office).
    – Prejudicing the House members to vote for bloody Jason’s impeachment with your tweets and statements demanding impeachment.
    – Ordering the Ohio phone bank to harass voters in the impeachment committee members’ districts to harass the members to demand impeachment.
    – Ordering the billboards to political assail the reputations of the impeachment committee members and demand impeachment. Look at all the new enemies you created within your own GOP caucus. Now they’ll come after you too. (I’ll bet there will be secret money from your 2024 presidential competitors to make sure you don’t file for the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire. You know I’m right about this, Kristi, because you’ve shown us how to use dark money and hidden hands to do your dirty work.)

    Oooooooh, yeah, Princess. You’ve been a naughty, naughty girl. You turned that impeachment committee process into a much bigger and uglier circus than it already was. And now it’s Attorney General Jason’s turn. Das ist dein Alptraum.

    But I’ve got to ask you this. Would it be better if he got a grand jury to indict you for your violations of law and put you on trial?

    Or would it be better just to go with the flow like Republicans always do in South Dakota and smile when they put Jason Ravnsborg’s name right below yours on the 2022 statewide ballot? Kristi and Jason, together forever.

    There’s a darn good chance it will be both. Gute nacht Prinzessin. Jason’s got his eye on you.

  12. mike from iowa 2022-03-29

    I just saw the pic of the murder weapon the day after the crash and the side view mirror is still attached.

  13. Bob Newland 2022-03-29

    Janklow spinning in his grave? Maybe, but only in disappointment that he didn’t get to partake in the plundering he initiated.

  14. Bob Newland 2022-03-29

    What is the significance of the intact side-view mirror?

  15. Arlo Blundt 2022-03-29

    Well…hate to say it but…I told you so. An easy call as it involved the Republican Party. I will attempt to be humble now.

  16. ABC 2022-03-29

    Democracy in shambles in South Dakota.

    No impeachment for the killer.

    No Democratic opponents on the Secretary of State Candidates List as of 230 pm 3 29 22 the last day petitions can be turned in.

    Yes the people are implicated in electing and not impeaching Ravnsborggg. They elected him and the house cowards who further the culture of corruption. They elected the coward Daugaaaaard who along with the Lagislature totally trashed the Ethics Law we passed in November 2014. Noem also helped derail the recreational marijuana LAW we passed in 2020.

    If you want

  17. ABC 2022-03-29

    If you want a job to get done, don’t elect Democrats.

    The people in South Dakota are used to voting for corrupt Republicans who do bad things and protect their own.

    Voters, why vote for medical marijuana and recreational marijuana when you also vote for people who don’t know right from wrong and try to destroy the people’s right to initiative and referendum.

    Guys and gals, we are just writing novels here on Cory’s blog UNLESS we start Voting or running as Progressives who will retire the Republican Frat house government forever.

    Democrats take over Pierre? They don’t believe in running 105 People for Legislature.

    Do you see a World War 2 movie or an action movie, where the good guys say, Oh we re developing a good farm team! Or maybe 2 years from now, we might do something.

    The Progressives elected a Governor (Lee

  18. ABC 2022-03-29

    (Lee from Vermillion) in 1890s before the Democrats elected a Governor. Remember that!

  19. Mark Anderson 2022-03-29

    Well Cory, its easy, in South Dakota, if you are a Republican you can get away with murder.

  20. ABC 2022-03-29

    Read what Jim Carrey says about the Will Smith slap. (Yahoo news).

    “I was sickened by the standing ovation,” Carrey said. “I felt like Hollywood is just spineless en masse, and it just really felt like, ‘Oh, this is a really clear indication that we’re not the cool club anymore.'”

    https://news.yahoo.com/jim-carrey-blasts-spineless-hollywood-164842424.html

    Let’s substitute a few words.

    “I felt like Pierre is just spineless en masse, and it just really felt like, ‘Oh, this is a really clear indication that government (Legislature) is not the cool club anymore.'”

    Will Smith didn’t kill anyone. Jason Ravnsborgg’s carelessness did.

    But is Pierre really the Cool Club any more?

    Do we admire what the Republicans and the waffling Democrats do? Or is is embarrassing? Like they can do way better, and they don’t?

    The Academy in Hollywood is private nonprofit. The Legislature in Pierre is a public governmental group.

    Remember what the great Jim Carrey said– “We’re not the cool club anymore…”

    Since Pierre isn’t cool, what are we gonna do about it?

    (There is still a month left to run as an Independent or Libertarian, if you want).

    So……let’s CREATE the COOL CLUB, then !!!! Why not? We should!! We will !!!

  21. grudznick 2022-03-29

    The legislatures would be a much better place if a fellow could walk up and slap another fellow who is lying or insulting during the committees. It would also be much more entertaining. And the lobbists, golly, they’d have to work out with bench pressings to be able to represent instead of just sit around drinking coffee and reading the news papers. This would be the way the founding fathers wanted it, in the old days. And bring back the spittoons, too.

    grudznick is just sayin…

  22. All Mammal 2022-03-29

    Spot on once again, ABC. It has always been fine with me to let the cool kids have their club, as long as they respected the kids who yearned to be cool too. All clubs do so much better with a leader who recognizes the pros of having diplomacy with all the smaller clubs and is wise enough to consult the consigliere once in a while to switch it up and keep everybody on their toes. Otherwise, the ideas get too inbred and stale. Thats so 2 thousand and late. To be cool, you have to have originality and that future boom boom boom. Like ballet.
    We need one good leader who isn’t too into themselves to consider the quiet kid’s ideas and will recognize and value people’s talents and let them shine and be proud of the beauty of their healthy, free people while holding them up without tiring.
    Our SD Leg, Executive, Judicial branches exude contempt when looking down on the people in this state. They disrespect my water and tread on my home. I personally feel like governor Noem hates me and my values. I feel dismissed by my legislators. I fear my police and would not leave my dogs alone with my Attorney General. I feel weakened by their disregard. I feel robbed by the justice system. Literally, the kiosk at the jail stole my money! Well, stole from my homegirl’s soup and lotion commissary after I put cash into the machine. Oh.
    We’ve got to wriggle in some good leaders with a calibrated moral compass, integrity we can depend on, and fortitude to make scruples popular and problem solving hip.

  23. grudznick 2022-03-29

    Ms. Mammal, I would encourage you to not put cash into machines at the jail. You are right to not leave dogs alone with Mr. Ravnsborg, and what you need to do is really back Mr. President Killer to run again for the legislatures. He was once very effective, unlike some of the fellows in there today.

  24. All Mammal 2022-03-30

    Consider it done, ‘Znicky. Mr. Killer’s come back has my support like an 18 hour playtex over the shoulder boulder holder.
    However, I will continue to shove bread into the racket known as jail commissary for an ol girl going on 14 months in Pennington county on marshal hold. Still not one charge brought against her. She has been kidnapped and kept in a dungeon with no sunlight for over a year so the least I can do is enclose stamps in correspondence and hope she gets to see a dollar out of every five dead presidents appropriated to her cause.
    More than an inconvenient consequence of consistently having decent candidates out-voted and out-raced (out-ran?)
    For every Mr. Killer there is, another killer politician gets elected. Something to do with the Bermuda Triangle/Gobi Desert vortex. Or brain eating butt worms.

  25. larry kurtz 2022-03-30

    Republicans don’t want any debate on the facts in Joe Boever’s death so can the full House just vote on impeachment without revealing the massive coverup conducted by the SDGOP?

    https://drgnews.com/2022/03/29/100927/

  26. Dicta 2022-03-30

    Their argument here is well taken. The majority opinion (is that a correct term for a legislative counsel?) stated that Ravnsborg’s actions didn’t amount to malfeasance but were incredibly short on details as to why. It’s troubling, as it appears they were acting as finders of fact and law.

  27. mike from iowa 2022-03-30

    Mr Newland, it is a reference to Evans assertion (paraphrasing) Joe Boever threw himself onto Ravnsborg’s car and broke off the mirror. I have been searching for his comment and have yet to find it.

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