At 14:07 Central today, the prosecution rested its case in the Senate impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. With Ravnsborg seated there in the Senate chamber, available to testify if he wanted (and given unlimited time to do so by Senate impeachment trial rules), defense attorney Michael Butler said, “We have no witnesses to present, so we rest.”
Prosecution witness and North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Arnie Rummel, supervisor of the Ravnsborg criminal investigation, make a point that hadn’t stood out to me in this case yet. Rummel noted that, immediately after his fatal crash, according to phone GPS data, Ravnsborg slowed his car from the 68 mile-per-hour impact speed to 11 miles per hour. Then, for seven seconds, Ravnsborg continued to roll forward, slowing from 11 mph to 7 mph. Two seconds after that, Ravnsborg finally stopped, with his left wheels, according to the crash reconstruction based on his photo of the car and evidence from the scene, back across the fog line, off the shoulder, in the driving lane.
Why did co-prosecutor Mark Vargo have Rummel raise this point? Rummel contends that this long, strange deceleration suggests that Ravnsborg knew full well that he had hit and likely killed a man. He saw Boever’s face crash through his windshield. As he finished braking, he considered feeling the scene. Only after those few seconds of a rolling stop did he decide to actually stop.
Rummel noted that parking back on the roadway was also strange behavior. There was plenty of room for Ravnsborg to drive his entire car within the shoulder, as the crash reconstruction shows he did. In those last moments before stopping, Ravnsborg appears to have moved his car back to the left, back out into the land of traffic.
Was he still thinking about fleeing, then just stopped before compounding his crime? Or was he looking to create the impression that he’d been further out toward the driving lane when he hit Boever?
Vargo did not lead Rummel farther down that path. Butler properly questioned how GPS data prove anything about Ravnsborg’s state of mind.
When the Senate returns from its recess this afternoon, Senate President Larry Rhoden will read questions from Senators. Prosecution and defense will each then get one hour for closing arguments. If Senators have a lot of questions, the trial could extend into tomorrow (and Senate trial rules require that the day’s session end at 8 p.m. Central). However, if Senators are already satisfied with what they’ve heard, we could have a vote on impeachment before supper.