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Rep. Cwach: Why I Voted to Impeach the Attorney General

Representative Ryan Cwach (D-18/Yankton) is a lawyer. He applies his sober lawyerly thinking to what he heard as a member of the House impeachment committee over the past few months and explains in this message to constituents why he voted, in the minority on the House impeachment committee, to impeach Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg:

614 feet. That’s the distance the Attorney General’s car travelled after hitting Joseph Boever at approximately 10:23 P.M. about one mile west of Highmore on September 12, 2020, according to South Dakota Highway Patrolman Sargent Kinney and his staff. Sgt. Kinney further testified to our Impeachment Committee that the average distance a vehicle travels in a similar collision, like with a deer, is 200 feet. The South Dakota Highway Patrol concluded that this discrepancy, in addition to the fact that the Attorney General’s car was completely on the shoulder, showed that the Attorney General was distracted by something at the time his car hit Mr. Boever.

According to their report, Mr. Boever’s face smashed through the passenger side front windshield, and became stuck there until velocity forced his face out. No one knows how long. Mr. Boever’s glasses flew off his face with part of his glasses dropping to the floor of the front passenger side and the other portions landing in the back seat. Mr. Boever’s mostly naked body, half of his clothes were torn away, then rolled into the ditch, about two feet from the shoulder. Mr. Boever’s right leg was found approximately 40 feet northwest from his body.

Sargent Kinney and his staff were trained by John Daily. Mr. Daily is the nation’s pre-eminent traffic crash re-constructionist. He literally wrote the book on it, called Fundamentals of Traffic Crash Reconstruction. He trains law enforcement across the country, including the South Dakota Highway Patrol. We were able to question Mr. Daily during our investigation. Mr. Daily confirmed the South Dakota Highway Patrol’s report, concluding, with 95% confidence, that its conclusions were correct.

Based on the investigation, the Attorney General was charged with a lane violation under SDCL 32-26-6. He did not contest the charge and was found guilty. Moreover, he never offered an explanation for driving on the shoulder.

In his interrogation, which was not under oath, the Attorney General stated that he thought he may have “glanced” a deer and he wondered if the deer may have hopped over to the other side of the road after impact. This is why the Attorney General went back to the accident scene early the next morning, according to the Attorney General.

However, on the night of the accident, the Attorney General tells the 911 dispatcher that he does not know what he hit. In response to the 911 dispatcher’s question about what he thought he hit, he states, “I have no idea.” After the 911 call, he sent a photo of his car on the side of the road to his chief of staff, Tim Bormann. Mr. Bormann also asks about a deer. Again, the Attorney General states he hit something, but he does not confirm that it was a deer.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation Agents Rummel and Arenz believed that the Attorney General was not being truthful to them in the interrogations. During the second interrogation, the Attorney General is asked several times about his cell phone use. He does not remember using his cell phone to text or access data. He says this several times. Of course, approximately one minute before the crash, he was on his phone, reading news articles and checking his emails. It was not until his interrogators told him they knew about his phone use that he acknowledged using it.

We interviewed North Dakota Agents Rummel and Arenz as part of our investigation. Mr. Arenz testified, under oath, that the Attorney General made statements during the interrogation that indicated the Attorney General knew at the time of the accident that he did not hit a deer. This is consistent with the Attorney General’s own private statements discussed above at the time of the accident. Agent Rummel noted that the Attorney General would slam his hands down and get emphatic after he made a mistake. He also testified that the Attorney General was uncomfortable throughout the interrogations. In his experience, witnesses typically exhibit this behavior when they are not being truthful. Agent Rummel also testified that the Attorney General’s recollection were too inconsistent with the facts to be believable. Mr. Boever lied naked off the shoulder with no color to him. Cell phone records indicate that the Attorney General walked by Mr. Boever’s body when he either reporting the crash to the 911 operator or was looking for what he hit in the ditch with his cellphone flashlight. Agent Rummel testified that it would have been impossible not to see Mr. Boever’s dead body under those circumstances.

As attorney general, Jason Ravnsborg had a unique and special duty to fully cooperate in the investigation of the fatal crash. The record indicates, however, that he was less than forthcoming, and perhaps even lied, during his interview with the law enforcement officers investigating the crash. He used the privileges of his office to learn about how the investigation would be conducted. Early in the investigation, the Attorney General asked a South Dakota special agent questions about law enforcement’s ability to extract cell phone data from cell phones in the office of the Special Agent’s supervisor. The Special Agent immediately documented this strange interaction. The average suspect would not be able to learn the techniques of those investigating him. Based on the evidence and the conclusions of all law enforcement involved, I have concluded that the Attorney General was not truthful or transparent with law enforcement during the course of the investigation.

The Attorney General also mislead to the public. Less than two days after the accident, on his official state letterhead, the Attorney General issued a public statement on the accident. The Attorney General represented that his statement was a “full and factual account” of what happened, despite the fact that his statement includes several misleading or false statements meant to sway or confuse the public. For instance, the statement says he believed he hit a large animal (likely a deer); although, immediately after the crash, he would only say that he hit something. He does not disclose in this letter that he was on his cell phone approximately one minute before the accident or that he was on the shoulder of the road at the time of the accident. In fact, he says he was in the middle of the road despite ultimately pleading guilty to a lane violation.
It was inappropriate for our state’s top law enforcement officer to issue this statement to the public during a pending investigation. At the time he released it, he had not been fully interrogated by investigators.

Our committee also interviewed two of the four prosecutors who worked on the criminal trial. These interviews did not have any impact on my decision to recommend impeachment. Impeachment is not a criminal trial, and the type of charges that may come from a criminal investigation are inherently different from impeachment, which is for censure and removal of public officials.

Driving onto the shoulder of the road is “a common place occurrence.” Failing to stop at a stop sign is another common place occurrence. I agree that these types of traffic offenses, standing alone, should not serve as the basis for impeachment. But when any traffic offense results in the death of a pedestrian, it should not be considered a commonplace occurrence. In such cases, the consequences of the traffic offense simply cannot be ignored. The death of a pedestrian transforms a routine traffic offense into a serious incident regardless of whether the driver is charged with homicide. But for Attorney General’s lane violation, Mr. Boever would not have been killed.

The Attorney General is not an average citizen. He is the chief law enforcement officer of the state. He is responsible for prosecuting persons who violate state law. Whether or not the Attorney General is acting in his official capacity, he should be held to a high standard of conduct with respect to obedience of the law. Unlawfully driving on the shoulder of the road with no excuse and causing the death of a pedestrian falls well below the standard of conduct to be expected from the state’s chief law enforcement officer, even if he was not engaged in official business at the time of the crash.

The Attorney General had the opportunity to appear before the House Investigation Committee to present his version of the facts. He could have disputed the evidence in the reports and dispelled the investigators’ opinions that he was not truthful during his post-crash interviews. He failed to do so. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, there was no reason for the Committee not to accept as true all the facts in the record.

Based on the totality of these circumstances, I believe it is reasonable to conclude that the criminal act which lead to Mr. Boever’s death, albeit a class 2 misdemeanor, and his subsequent actions are grounds for the Attorney General’s impeachment under Art. XVI, § 3.

Very Truly,

Ryan Cwach
State Representative –
District 18

22 Comments

  1. DaveFN 2022-04-01 20:58

    Could there be finer reasons and reasoning for Ravnsborg’s impeachment than this?

  2. Ryan 2022-04-01 21:12

    I don’t know much about this cwach fellow, but I like his name and his point of view on this issue.

  3. Sion G. Hanson 2022-04-01 21:12

    Any man with sense and honesty would have been honest and forward from the very start. A man with any sense at all would have long ago resigned and tried to make amends. A man with zero sense and no morals is still our attorney general. He has turned an accidental tragedy into another Pierre fiasco. The faith of the people is all but gone, concerning our “leaders” in this state.

  4. Arlo Blundt 2022-04-01 23:51

    Thank you, Representative Cwach for a logical legal explanation of the guilt of Attorney General Ravensborgh in the death of Joe Boever. The truth of Ravensborgh utter disregard for the law while driving and the dishonesty of his self serving defense have become obvious in the face of the mendacious defense of his actions launched by the Republicans on the so-called “investigative committee”. Joe Boever went for a walk along the highway one night to retrieve his pick-up and walked right into the middle of petty Republican politics which have made a mockery of his death.

  5. Mark 2022-04-01 23:51

    And he is being protected by representatives that are further to the right and more religious than our Governor? Maybe the world is about to end, holy hell in a handbasket!

  6. cathy 2022-04-02 03:29

    Ryan Cwach is a good rep and a genuinely nice guy.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-04-02 06:47

    Note Mark’s point: Republicans portray themselves as the party of personal responsibility until it comes time for an elected Republican to take personal responsibility.

  8. mike from iowa 2022-04-02 09:01

    That’s right, Cory, and I can do anything better than anyone else, as long as I don’t HAVE to do it. Talk is cheap. Magats reek!

  9. RST Tribal Member 2022-04-02 09:57

    Cannot expect more from inept inbred Republicans.

    Unfortunate, democrats are unable to bring catchier messages to the campaign to get elected. Heck a lead democrat defended a trumpier republican in another post concerning Indian Reservations; but Natives learned when having to chose between a Native viewpoint or a trumpier’s actions it is evidence where South Dakota white politicians align be it democrat or republican.

  10. grudznick 2022-04-02 11:27

    Mr. Cwach, which indeed is a fun name to say, is very young fellow but wise for his years.

  11. 96Tears 2022-04-02 11:35

    All of this is now yesterday’s birdcage liner. Republicans did as Republicans always do: Slap the whitewash on their turds and call it pure.

    Now for the fun stuff. The Night of the Long Knives. Jason Ravnsborg is still the S.D. Attorney General. He is still collecting SDGOP delegates for the S.D. Republican Party State Convention, slated for June 23-25, 2022 at the Watertown Event Center. Jason has some unfinished business for the Snow Queen:

    “Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who like Noem is a Republican, asked the board to consider two issues. One is whether Noem’s use of state airplanes broke the law, and the other is whether she improperly interfered with a state agency that was evaluating her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license. Noem has insisted she has done nothing wrong. After meeting for roughly 10 minutes behind closed doors, the Government Accountability Board, which is made up of retired judges, decided to give Noem until April 15 — after the legislative session ends — to respond to the complaints.” – The Associated Press, Feb. 3, 2022. https://apnews.com/article/kristi-noem-south-dakota-sd-state-wire-7e7a80116b3b59c90f049ac6330dcf6f

    Gee, Kristi, April 15’s just right around the corner! Jason could also add to the pile Noem’s activities to tip the scales of “justice” ahead of the criminal trial on Ravnsborg’s misdemeanor charges and during the impeachment proceedings, both of which were tilted to let Ravnsborg off the hook.

    “Let’s get ready to RRRRRRUMBLE!!!”

    Now that he’s hook-free, it’s Kristi’s turn in the barrel. It couldn’t happen to a nicer gal! What goes around, Kristi, comes around. And while, yes, Jason Ravnsborg is a serial traffic law violator, chronic liar and all-around self-serving slime weasel (just like you, Kristi), you must admire his tenacity through all of his legal tribulations to exact your pound of flesh. He’s kept his mind on who his friends are and who are the backstabbers. He doesn’t give a hoot that you already spent your political capital on endorsing Marty Jackley (who still remembers how you slashed and trashed him in the 2018 GOP primary). Come June 23, Jason will have those delegates singing his tune. They’ve be praising him (along with the scribes at the Sioux Falls PRAVDA Leader) as the come back kid.

    I know you’re worried that you will be forever entwined with Jason’s name at the top of that GOP ballot. Forever, Kristi and Jason! Like Mad magazine’s ‘Spy vs. Spy’ cartoons, forever carving each other up. The voters in South Dakota are dumb enough to give you a second term doing nothing as Governor. No worries there. But those folks in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries will have much smarter, better choices, and I predict you won’t be one of them. Even Fox News will be moving on to smarter, better talking heads.

    To quote John Lennon: The dream is over. Enjoy the view of the glorified slough (Capitol Lake) from that $3 million governor’s mansion and your new sauna. Then on that fateful day in January 2027, don’t forget to turn out the lights.

  12. Jenny 2022-04-02 15:31

    Thank you to Rep Cwach for his thoughtful letter to the people of South Dakota on voting to impeach Ravnsborg.

    MNs AG Keith Ellison said it best about George Floyd’s life and now I am going to put Joe Boevers name in Ellison’s quote.
    “Joe Boever’s life mattered. He was loved by his family and many relatives – but that isn’t why he mattered. He mattered because he was a human being.”
    RIP Joe

  13. Mark Anderson 2022-04-02 19:20

    Well you know 96, there were some movies with the main character named Jason. This isn’t much different.

  14. Bob Newland 2022-04-02 20:20

    I have yet to ascertain why, in the face of plenty of evidence and, therefore, cause, they didn’t forward the impeachment recommendation.

    Ravnsborg is also profoundly inept at everything, as far as I can see. Everything except obsequiousness, that is. Of what value can he possibly be to the people who intend to let him finish his term and run again?

  15. larry kurtz 2022-04-02 21:03

    It’s been a year since the military announced the promotion of Lt. Col. Ravnsborg to the retirement rank of full colonel, a promotion usually presented to the U.S. Senate for confirmation. Curious how that might go.

  16. Bob Newland 2022-04-02 21:07

    I believe that promotion is in purgatory.

  17. larry kurtz 2022-04-02 21:19

    Hot Springs is purgatory; Pierre is probably eternal damnation.

  18. Donald Pay 2022-04-02 21:37

    This, 96Tears, is the beginning of a great TV spot:

    “Jason Ravnsborg is a serial traffic law violator, chronic liar and all-around self-serving slime weasel”

  19. 96Tears 2022-04-03 08:58

    Has a certain ring to it, DPay!

  20. grudznick 2022-04-03 20:14

    Mr. Ravnsborg, who is kinda funny-looking in a general sense, will soon be marching to a different drummer. I suspect there are many of the less insaner delegates who would see him as a heavy-legged waist-bender. I’m just sayin…

  21. larry kurtz 2022-04-03 20:37

    Wrist benders gather
    With the warmest rapscallions
    On grudznick’s caprice.

  22. leslie 2022-04-03 22:09

    Benda dead amidst Rounds’s EB5 “casino” fraud; too much accounting burden! Rounds keeps top 1% running top corporations from disclosure of salary “income inequality”; too much accounting burden. Family murdered in coverup by father who defrauded the Indian’s “Gear Up!”, in Platte; Daugaard—too much accounting burden. Dusty Johnson murders American soldiers by Russian armor piercing bounty hunting snipers and sponsors hot chick Russian spy Maria Butina and enables her partner the convicted fraudster Erickson w/s Trump pardon; too much accounting burden. Thune, handmaiden of McConnell, the most brazen lier packing SCOTUS after Scalia’s death, flies to Moscow July 4 one year with perhaps the stupidest Republican politician, among others, and a subsequent July 4 mingles unmasked before the nation at Mt Rushmore, desecrating the nation’s stage of true patriotism, applauding and smiling at lounge lizard DJT, slouching on the bar (podium) hip shooting lie after political lie; too much burden of accountability! Noem nearly loses to Democrat gubernatorial candidate then undercuts CDC protection of Smithfield employees Trump designated essential, killing them during the pandemic that Trump was “done with” ridiculing CDC mask strategy in super spreader SCOTUS nomination celebration, dissing layered protection, killing a million more Americans, eventually; too burdensome for accountability. Ravnsborg kills a pedestrian while highway texting, lying about it being a deer and likely fleeing the scene; our state legislature too burdened to require accountability.

    Republican lying elected officials; too much of an accountability burden for the SD GOP.

    And others whine that Democrats are at fault for not finding candidates that will throw hats into the maelstrom. Wismer did. Sutton did. Seiler did. Others did. They are to be saluted. You’ll not find better qualified, sincere, honest and intelligent candidates in the state. Democrats!

    Koch Brothers Industries in the state do not want this kind of reform for the state’s little people. Independents plus Democrats can easily win with their numbers exceeding Republicans.

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