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Ravnsborg Submits No Witness List or Documents to Senate for Impeachment Trial; Prosecution Plans Eight Witnesses, Numerous Photos, Examples of Officials Punished for Misconduct

Killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has failed to meet the June 1 deadline the Senate gave him to submit the list of witnesses and documents he intends to use in his defense in his impeachment trial before the Senate starting June 21. Ravnsborg’s attorney, Michael Butler, did submit Ravnsborg’s required response to the two articles of impeachment. As Butler told the press Tuesday evening, Ravnsborg denies that he committed crimes causing the death of Jospeh Boever and committed malfeasance in office afterward. The response to the Senate contains no argumentation, only two sentences:

Please accept this email as the Attorney General’s denial of the allegations contained in Articles 1 & 2 of House Resolution 7002. I request that this denial be circulated to the relevant parties [Michael Butler, email to LRC director Reed Holwegner, 2022.05.31 17:02 CDT; retrieved from Senate Court of Impeachment documents 2022.06.03].

The Senate’s impeachment prosecutors, Mark Vargo and Alexis Tracy, have submitted the prosecution’s witnesses and documents.

The prosecution will call eight witnesses:

  1. John Daily, Jackson Hole Scientific Investigations
  2. John Berndt, SD Highway Patrol
  3. Kevin Kinney, SD Highway Patrol
  4. Cassidy Halseth, ND Bureau of Criminal Investigation
  5. Brent Gromer, witness (retired, SD Division of Criminal Investigation)
  6. Tyler Neuharth, witness (retired, SD Division of Criminal Investigation)
  7. Joe Arenz, ND Bureau of Criminal Investigation
  8. Arnie Rummel, ND Bureau of Criminal Investigation

The first four witnesses investigated the crash site on the north shoulder of Highway 14 west of Highmore where Ravnsborg on the night of September 12, 2020, plowed his car at 68 miles per hour into flashlight-carrying pedestrian Joseph Boever and killed the man. The fifth and sixth witnesses appear called to testify to Ravnsborg’s abuse of power, his use of his position and access to DCI resources to help his own case. The last two witnesses are the North Dakota agents who interviewed Ravnsborg and other people connected to Ravnsborg, Boever, and Ravnsborg’s fatal crash and who told the House impeachment committee in January that Ravnsborg did not tell them the truth during their interviews.

One of the key facts about which Agents Arenz and Rummel believe Ravnsborg lied was the lit flashlight Boever was carrying in the dark when Ravnsborg killed him. Police found that flashlight still shining at the edge of Highway 14 the next day. The documents posted to the Senate Court of Impeachment webpage—167 as of this writing, Friday morning, June 3—include crime scene photos of that flashlight, documents 437_0493, 437_0637 through 437_0640 and 437_0644:

437_0637 Boever flashlight edge of Hwy 14 20200913
Document 437_0637: crime scene photo of Boever flashlight at edge of Hwy 14, 2020.09.13. Retrieved from Senate Court of Impeachment documents 2022.06.03.
Document 437_0640: crime scene photo of Boever flashlight at edge of Hwy 14, 2020.09.13. Retrieved from Senate Court of Impeachment documents 2022.06.03.
Document 437_0640: crime scene photo of Boever flashlight at edge of Hwy 14, 2020.09.13. Retrieved from Senate Court of Impeachment documents 2022.06.03.
Document 437_0644: crime scene photo of investigator picking up Boever flashlight from edge of Hwy 14, 2020.09.13. Retrieved from Senate Court of Impeachment documents 2022.06.03.
Document 437_0644: crime scene photo of investigator picking up Boever flashlight from edge of Hwy 14, 2020.09.13. Retrieved from Senate Court of Impeachment documents 2022.06.03.

Document 445_0003 shows a front view of the right side of Ravnsborg’s red Ford Taurus, the side that hit Boever:

Document 445_0003: crime investigation photo showing damage to Jason Ravnsborg's vehicle, date taken not indicated. Retrieved from Senate Court of Impeachment documents 2022.06.03.
Document 445_0003: crime investigation photo showing damage to Jason Ravnsborg’s vehicle, date taken not indicated. Retrieved from Senate Court of Impeachment documents 2022.06.03.

Notice the broken mirror on the right side of the vehicle and the scuffs in the dirt just behind the right front wheel and on the front passenger door. Investigators say that after Boever’s head broke through the windshield, his body eventually fell off the right side of the vehicle.

While recognizing the danger of seeing patterns where there may be none, see also Document 445_0032, where what appears to be a partial, dusty, streaked handprint near the right edge of the hood, just below the smashed windshield. The streaks point rearward, the direction the body would have been dragged by the road off the hood:

Document 445_0032: crime investigation photo showing damage to Jason Ravnsborg's vehicle, date taken not indicated. Photo trimmed by DFP, retrieved from Senate Court of Impeachment documents 2022.06.03.
Document 445_0032: crime investigation photo showing damage to Jason Ravnsborg’s vehicle, date taken not indicated. Photo trimmed by DFP, retrieved from Senate Court of Impeachment documents 2022.06.03.

The index of photos says that Senators will see photos of Boever’s body, including his severed leg, during the trial. Those photos will not be published online. Accompanying those photos will be numerous records from the police investigation, including redacted recordings and transcripts of Ravnsborg’s interviews with the North Dakota investigators.

The prosecution also plans to present numerous examples of punishment prescribed and issued for misconduct by public officials and lawyers. The prosecution’s submitted documents include references to federal law punishing false statements, misuse of government property, and misuse of office for private gain. The prosecution cites South Dakota’s law against false reporting to authorities. The prosecution notes another state law prescribing removal from office for municipal officials found guilty of neglect of duty or misconduct. The prosecution cites a 1938 South Dakota Supreme Court ruling affirming the Governor’s decision to remove a member of the Board of Charities and Corrections for misconduct that the Court deemed “slight”. The prosecution cites the South Dakota Supreme Court’s 2013 discipline of Sioux Falls attorney R. Shawn Tornow for, among other actions, “disrespectful and insulting invectives in brief to circuit court,” a charge which seems to open the door for the prosecution to tag Ravnsborg for his surprising last-minute appeal to the House not to impeach him. Ravnsborg’s April 11 letter and bullet points to the House, which are also included in the prosecution’s exhibits, contended that he was a victim of political retaliation by the Governor, which sounds like the “invective” for which Tornow was disciplined, Tornow’s allegation in court that his daughter’s traffic conviction was a “retaliatory” measure against him. The prosecution cites multiple state rules for attorney conduct relating to conflicts of interest, candor toward the tribunal, special responsibilities of prosecutors, and misconduct.

The Senate impeachment trial rules allow both the prosecution and Ravnsborg to submit more documents during trial. Those submitted by the June 1 deadline by the prosecution indicate the direction the prosecution will take. We’ll have to wait now to see what documents and witnesses Ravnsborg plans to offer to save himself from doubling the asterisk next to his name in the history books as the first elected official impeached and removed from office in South Dakota.

40 Comments

  1. Bob 2022-06-03

    The photos of the car are difficult to look at. The impact was certainly violent.

  2. larry kurtz 2022-06-03

    The best path for Mr. Ravnsborg is the one blazed by Rich Benda and Eric Westerhuis.

  3. Bob Newland 2022-06-03

    That would hurt no one’s feelings, Lar.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-03

    The best path for all South Dakotans is that Ravnsborg face justice and that the Senate do that justice by convicting Ravnsborg and removing him from office.

  5. P. Aitch 2022-06-03

    Mr. Evans.
    Have you volunteered your theories about the incident to Mr. Ravensborg as assistance in his defense?
    You’ve put a lot of thought into your comments.
    P

  6. leslie 2022-06-03

    Nemec’s—so sorry this state is putting you thru this pain one more time.

    Justice from a Republican senate? State law enforcement and administration are in the hands of immature and political power expediency. Trumpists.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-03

    P wonders whom Ravnsborg might call… that gets me thinking about whom the prosecution is calling and whom it isn’t. For the first article of impeachment, the killing itself, the prosecutors aren’t bothering with Bormann or Natvig, the cronies whom Ravnsborg texted shortly after the crime. (And remember, Natvig is the one now running for AG against Jackley). They aren’t talking to Boever’s family members or looking into his state of mind or body. The prosecution is focusing on the objective evidence collected by the investigators, a majority of whom are from out of state and those are not subject to any political pressure from our political appointees. For the second article of impeachment, the misconduct in office after the killing, they are turning to the two DCI officials who witnessed Ravnsborg’s abuse of power during the investigation in addition to the crime scene investigators and the interrogators who can show how the objective evidence doesn’t square with the statements Ravnsborg made to the police and to the public.

    And then, because this is South Dakota’s first impeachment, making it impossible to turn to exact presidents, the prosecution is providing the court with a variety of examples of public officials and lawyers being held accountable for misconduct.

    The documents posted so far suggest this will be a very businesslike, objective, and lawyerly prosecution. I am keenly eager to see to what sort of spectacular distractions the defense will have to resort.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-03

    Leslie, I dare say the pain would be much greater if the House had not impeached and if the Senate were not going to conduct this trial fully and openly. If the Senate trail does cause the family pain, they can choose not to watch… though I suspect our friend Nick and Joe’s wife will be in the Senate gallery for every moment of this trial.

    As always, I stand open to Nick‘s correction.

  9. Richard Schriever 2022-06-03

    A conniving cowardly weasel cannot help but engage in weaselly cowardly connivances. It’s the nature of that beast.

  10. Sion G. Hanson 2022-06-03

    I find it very telling that Ravsnborg chooses to force the people of this state and the victims of this tragedy to forego another round. He and anyone in support of him should be tarred and feathered. Aside from arrogance, i can think of no reason that he has not resigned.

  11. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-06-03

    Cory, I STILL maintain Jason should update his will, put a tarp in his bathtub and wrap it around his porkiness, and blow his brains out with a handgun. There is no other justice.

  12. mike from iowa 2022-06-03

    Is it possible there is a secret deal if Ravnsborg doesn’t contest, he gets off relatively free? Still looks liker passenger side mirror is still attached to vehicle.

  13. 96Tears 2022-06-03

    The defense strategy must be relying on what the highly capable Mr. Butler can make of what has already been set on the table. This process is entirely political and it leans on Ravnsborg’s relationship with the Senate members.

    We know all three Democrats will vote to convict. So, which 21 Republicans of the total GOP caucus of 32 will also vote to convict? Keep in mind that the majority of House Republicans voted to NOT impeach Ravnsborg on a simple majority of members-elect. The Senate conviction requires at least a two-thirds majority – a much heavier lift. Keep in mind, too, that the Noem/Schoenbeck purging of incumbent Republican legislators on June 7 will not endear those 32 GOP Senators to do Noem/Schoenbeck’s bidding only two weeks later.

    How many of those 32 will think enough is enough, and that military veteran/Colonel Ravnsborg has been punished enough? And that Lee Schoenbeck’s gleeful hubris as self-appointed King of the Republican Party is over the top?

    To place himself on the general election ballot, right below Governor Noem’s name, Jason Ravnsborg must survive two gauntlets:

    1. Convince a minimum of 12 of the 32 GOP Senate Caucus that Ravnsborg’s historic humiliation in the House was more than enough. Team Noem/Schoenbeck’s pressure tactics with the mysterious Ohio phone bank, the dark money billboards to twist arms to impeach a fellow Republican and the effort to purge fellow Republican incumbents to do the will of Noem/Schoenbeck may not be rewarded with a conviction.

    2. Declaring he’s been exonerated by the Senate’s failure to convict, military veteran/Colonel incumbent Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is free to be nominated to run for re-election. His state convention delegate friends are lined up to do that. Does he have enough weighted votes?

    I personally hope they stuff the puke Jason in a deep hole, never to be heard or thought of again. As we prognosticate what GOP incumbent Senators and GOP state convention delegates will do, we should keep in mind that the anti-Ravnsborg elements in the state GOP have an uphill slog to fully cut away Ravnsborg from his elected position.

    If this fails, I’m sure the party bosses will be wondering if they bit off too much by running a purge of their jury (incumbent legislators) while also decapitating a fellow Republican who was elected Attorney General.

    Either way, it’s gonna be one hell of a show!

  14. O 2022-06-03

    One element of all this that is not 100% clear to me is what exactly is the threshold of Ravnsborg “badness” needed for impeachment?

    Even at the undisputed (even Kurt Evans undisputed) level: that the AG struck a man walking on the side of the road while the AG was on the phone, isn’t that enough for a political decision (and this is all political — not criminal of civil, those have been decided) to say that we have lost faith in the ability of this man to represent his office?

    Already, in our “right to work” state, Ravnsborg has received more due process and consideration than many others let go from their lower profile jobs.

  15. leslie 2022-06-03

    I agree Cory!

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-03

    Mike, it is entirely possible that the Senate GOP caucus is working on a secret deal with Butler the same way they worked out a secret deal with Jackley two years ago for Greenfield and Langer to avoid damage to the party. But in Ravnsborg’s case, lots of damage has already been done. Not many people paid attention to Langer’s and Greenfield’s legislating while drunk; everybody knows Ravnsborg killed a man and has mostly gotten away with it. Schoenbeck could easily calculate that cutting Jason a deal could hurt the GOP more than unleashing Vargo and frying Jason.

    Bob Mercer may have done us an important favor by breaking the story of the secret caucus deal that swept Greenfield and Langer’s misconduct under the rug. He may be helping us watch for and scare Schoenbeck away from offering any similar deal now for Ravnsborg.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-03

    Good point, O: how many other South Dakota employees, public or private, could screw up this badly and this publicly and still stay on the job for 19 months without any punishment from his employer?

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-03

    96 offers astute calculus. The Senate impeachment trial is not a normal trial. Butler does not have to establish reasonable doubt; he has to weave political cover that works for 12 Republicans.

    But I’m not sure the Schoenbeck/ Noem purge will play as big a role as 96 suggests. By my reckoning, Schoenbeck is only targeting three Senate incumbents: Novstrup, Bolin, and Frye-Mueller. How much of a rat’s patootie do other Senators give about those three? Frye-Mueller has no influence; she’s just the typical disorganized right-wing Black Hills bombmthrower. Novstrup’s asleep at the wheel; is there anyone he could convince to join him in a grudge vote? Bolin might have the aggressive attitude necessary to whip votes to save Jason, but if Jim loses his primary and goes head to head with Lee, with whom would other Senators side: The guy from Canton who lost his primary, won’t be back next session, and has minimal fundraising power, Or the Senate boss from Watertown who cleaned his primary opponents clock, will be large and in charge in Pierre next session, and backed dozens of candidates around the state with cold hard cash and can do the same who votes with him to convict killer Ravnsborg which also happens to be good and moral thing to do?

  19. P. Aitch 2022-06-03

    My defense would be:
    “Every man and woman in this room has talked on the phone while driving. A citizen was walking in the dark where no person should be expected to be walking. It was a terrible accident, but it was an accident, none the less. It could have happened to each and every one of you good people. But it didn’t. It happened to my client. Our state is known far and wide as being fair and giving a second chance to someone caught up in an unforeseen and unpredictable situation. Thank you for your consideration and for doing the right thing.”

  20. cibvet 2022-06-04

    I wonder if p.aitch’s defense would be written on paper or would pull the head out of one’s a** to announce it verbally.

  21. Neal 2022-06-04

    Vargo has 20+ open homicides in his county, is personally prosecuting none of them, yet he has time for this. What a joke. Pennington County citizens and law enforcement deserves so much better.

  22. mike from iowa 2022-06-04

    One of the first lessons out of the box for driver’s training is to drive defensively. Expect the unexpected. You always scan the shoulders for eyes or animal bodies or other detritus.

  23. 96Tears 2022-06-04

    Aw, c’mon MfI! Rules and laws are for common folk, not the Pierre elite! Those are for losers and little people. Do or kill what you want and you’ll get no jail time. The fine will be minimal. If you’re Noem, you get away with everything, no questions asked.

  24. mike from iowa 2022-06-04

    Frye-Mueller has no influence; she’s just the typical disorganized right-wing Black Hills bombmthrower.

    Any relation to imaginary goat getter Grudzilla by any chance?

    I agree about the rules, 96 Tears and I also remember the lack of punishment for Bollen and the mass murdering/suicide arsonist dude.

  25. P. Aitch 2022-06-04

    cibvet is apparently unversed in the first rule of persuasion.
    (i.e. Know, understand, and appeal to the mindset of those to whom you are speaking.)
    Ravnsborg’s attorney will be defending an elected Republican in the majority presence of other elected Republicans.
    The harshness exhibited on Cory’s blog won’t be present.
    A kind and gentle tone throughout will be the ticket to exoneration.

  26. O 2022-06-04

    P. Aitch, although I see your defense as a great criminal defense, in a political trial (assume a faithful level of dedication to public service), the prosecution seems to have almost the same pathway with the same facts to say that our top law enforcement officer HAS to project dedication to the laws we hold dear. Distracted (by cell phone) driving has – at least in our schools – overcome drunk driving as a focus for safety and personal accountability. The state’s top law enforcement officers shown us that there are NO second chances for the VICITMS of distracted drivers. NOBODY is beyond the hazards of distracted driving and NOBODY is above accountability. AG must have the highest accountability.

    What message do we send our children?

  27. cibvet 2022-06-04

    P.aitch–Your “kind and gentle tone to exoneration” is just a misrepresentation of fact and adheres to the republican deceit that you stubbornly defend.

  28. P. Aitch 2022-06-04

    cibvet – You sound like there’s a burr under your saddle. Enough from me because it just seems to set you off. Red flag laws are for people with inherent anger, you know.

  29. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-04

    P, Cibvet, ease up on each other. Cibvet, I presume that P is not speaking for himself but simply imagining the kind of defense Ravnsborg’s attorney Butler could offer. P generally does not defend Republican deceit; he’s just giving an example of the kind of deceit Ravnsborg has to use to get out of this mess and cling to his job for seven more months. P, your impugning of cibvet’s mental stability is unwarranted. He perceived Republican BS and got understandably hot about it.

  30. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-04

    Putting O’s and P’s responses side by side, I am curious to see if both sides try to play nice or if the prosecution must take a harder-line approach, the law-and-order, crime-and-punishment, accountability line O lays out. Butler can play the gentle P line, trying to make the legislators feel good about themselves and avoiding any aggressive argument that makes them think they are being mean. Vargo could take a similar approach, but he’s got to convince them that they can be their most moral selves by doing the right thing: holding the A.G. accountable and removing him from public office now and forever.]

    Good grief, how hard must we work to convince South Dakota Republicans to do the right thing?

  31. Mark Anderson 2022-06-04

    The fact that he’s still employed by the State of South Dakota is telling. Trump could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single Republican voter. Ravnsborg believes the same.

  32. P. Aitch 2022-06-04

    @Cibvette – Not trying to get on the bad side of anyone here. Sorry if that’s the way I came across to you. I apologize.

    My mission statement here is to work toward erasing the invisible line that’s dividing America, to the detriment of us all.

  33. grudznick 2022-06-04

    When I am the voice of reason in your libbie worlds, you know you have all lost the debates.

    Calm down, people. Toke a doobie if you have to, but chill out. Don’t harsh grudznick’s mellow, man.
    You can thank me now, or laud me later, but I have calmed out your emergent hatred and kept it bottled at least for now.

  34. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-04

    Well…grudz…I’m very calm…the controversy is over, Ravensborg won’t disrupt the Party’s convention He has resigned his constitutional office. Jackley’s in.. That’s decided. The deal is done. The Senate will censor him and he can keep his law license and run for States Attorney of some county at a later date…his military record is an open question not within the Legislature’s purview.

  35. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-06-05

    Ravnsborg resigned? He must have had the most belated fit of remorse ever. Wonder what date it’s effective.
    He can always hang out his own shingle in Pierre advertising himself as “Attorney – Driving.” You know, for petty stuff like hit-and-run, speeding, reckless, careless, distracted, too-stupid-to breathe, etc. Nuthin’ like experience.

  36. mike from iowa 2022-06-05

    Looks like Grudzilla misspelled treason again.

  37. Nick Nemec 2022-06-05

    Did Ravnsborg resign or did he just announce he wasn’t going to run for re-election?

  38. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-05

    As far as I know, Ravnsborg has done neither. Austin Goss reported earlier this week that sources say Ravnsborg has been telling GOP convention delegates and his confidants that he won’t seek reëlection. I am not aware of any public announcement from Ravnsborg yet. I suspect that, if he intends to make any such announcement, he will wait until the eve of the impeachment trial, to see if he stands any chance of acquittal.

  39. 96Tears 2022-06-05

    Perhaps he’s well-intentioned, but I’ve found Goss to be too interested in self-promotion and a light weight on investigative reporting. The lack of follow-through to the reported rumors tells me that’s all they are, rumors. The only questions are who’s spreading them and what do they have to gain. I feel confirmed in saying this after reading Jensen’s “leaked” transcript. Team Noem-Jackley-Schoenbeck want to flush Ravnsborg out rather than go through the embarrassment of the special Senate session. This forces Ravnsborg to confirm or deny when his best course is to shut up until the trial.

  40. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-05

    By “Ravensberg has resigned his constitutional office” I meant that Ravensberg is resigned to the fact that he has lost his constitutional office….just speculation on my part, but he doesn’t seem to be mounting much of a defense. His defense seems to be to suggest that the miscarraige of justice by the court and states attorney in Hyde County be upheld. That point, that he was convicted of two minor traffic offenses and never charged with manslaughter, seems to be lost in the shuffle. He’s history.

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