Maybe Job #1 for the interim Attorney General will be to clean out another liar from impeached killer Jason Ravnsborg’s old office. Joe Sneve points out that one key bit of testimony in Tuesday’s Senate impeachment trial showed not only that the former Attorney General abused his office but that his crony DCI director lied to the House about that abuse.
In February, Division of Criminal Investigation director David Natvig told the House impeachment committee that Jason Ravnsborg’s quizzing of DCI cyber-forensics expert Brent Gromer about what information police might find on the phones he was using in his car the night he hit and killed Joseph Boever was a harmless chat between two acquaintances:
He says the discussion between Ravnsborg and Gromer was a spur-of-the-moment conversation. Natvig says he was in and out of the room when it took place.
“What I saw, it was a pretty innocuous conversation between two gentlemen that knew each other,” Natvig says. “I can think of a lot of places where you might be curious about something because this guy knows his business. I don’t believe—you know, in my 18 years as a prosecutor I don’t feel like that’s at all a conflict or that he somehow interfered with the investigation, because North Dakota was handling the investigation. We had nothing to do with it” [Lee Strubinger, “State Crime Official Calls Ravnsborg’s Questions About Cellphones’Inncuous’,” SDPB, 2022.02.24].
The House impeachment committee did not seek testimony from Agent Gromer about the conversation in which Ravnsborg directly engage him. The Senate impeachment prosecutors did, and Agent Gromer described a very different situation.
Under questioning from co-prosecutor Mark Vargo, Gromer said that, prior to Ravnsborg’s deadly car crash and through Ravnsborg’s first year and a half as Attorney General, Gromer had “very limited” direct contact with Ravnsborg and never had a private conversation with him. But on September 15, 2020, three days after Ravnsborg killed Boever after spending most his drive home from Redfield on his phone, Ravnsborg took Gromer into Natvig’s office for a conversation. Gromer testified that Ravnsborg was not asking general questions about phone forensics. Nor was Ravnsborg asking about specific cases Gromer was working on for DCI. Ravnsborg asked specifically about Ravnsborg’s phones and apps. Ravnsborg did not ask about transferring data from his phone to a replacement phone; Ravnsborg asked what police would see on his phone.
Gromer said this conversation with Ravnsborg made him very uncomfortable, as everyone in DCI knew they were to avoid any involvement with the investigation of Ravnsborg’s crash.
Gromer also told Vargo and the Senate that Natvig incorrectly described that conversation to the House impeachment committee:
“It was referred that the meeting was just a happenstance meeting by the watercooler between two individuals that knew each other. That was not correct context. The context was minimized that it was just a happenstance,” Gromer said, adding that Ravnsborg summoned him to Natvig’s office where he began questioning him about phone data extraction [Joe Sneve, “Detective Says DCI Director Misled Lawmakers During Jason Ravnsborg Impeachment Probe,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2022.06.22].
Natvig now minimizes his own awareness of the content of the Ravnsborg-Gromer conversation:
Following Gromer’s testimony, Natvig – one of two declared candidates in the GOP race for the attorney general nod – stood by his testimony to the House Select Committee on Investigation, telling the Argus Leader he had previously been unaware of the special agent’s concerns.
“As Mr. Gromer testified, I was in and out of the office for parts of their conversation,” said the 56-year-old Kimball native. “My perspective was only based on what I heard, not whatever the entire conversation may have consisted of” [Sneve, 2022.06.22].
Watch Gromer’s testimony and hear Natvig’s response in Austin Goss’s KOTA-TV report:
Natvig tells Goss that he now agrees Ravnsborg likely should not have initiated the meeting with Gromer. That’s a significant change from telling the House in February that Ravnsborg’s chat with Gromer was “innocuous”.
Jason Ravnsborg lied to cops, the Legislature, and the rest of us, and he lost his job for it. If David Natvig lied to the House, that could lose him whatever minority of SDGOP delegates might still think he’d be a better Attorney General than Marty Jackley. A lie to the House may also be good reason for Governor Noem to appoint an interim Attorney General immediately to work down the hall at the Mickelson Building and fire DCI Director Natvig.