Republican South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg – who struck and killed a man with his car while texting and driving in the middle of the night on September 12, 2020 – has entered into a plea deal with prosecutors that will allow him to walk free and keep his job.
Ravnsborg maintains that he thought that he had impacted an animal, despite the victim’s glasses having wound up inside of the vehicle. Investigators determined that this resulted from 55-year-old Joseph Boever’s face smashing through Ravsnsborg’s windshield.
“I am thinking it is a deer at this point, but I did not see anything,” Ravnsbord insisted during interviews with the police. “I believe I did not do anything wrong, and I obviously replayed it in my mind about a thousand times. I never saw it — now him, I have learned — or anything I hit, and I tried to react appropriately from there.”
Ravnsborg, 45, was indicted in February on three misdemeanor traffic infractions: using a mobile electronic device while driving, failing to stay in his lane, and careless driving. Each of the violations carries a $500 fine and up to 30 days behind bars.
But on Thursday, Ravnsborg pleaded guilty to the first two charges and agreed to pay the penalties associated with each violation. The careless driving charge was dropped. Ravnsborg also agreed to pay more than $3,000 to reimburse the city of Highmore for costs related to securing and cleaning up the crash site.
“There won’t be a trial and there will be a plea entered,” Beadle County State’s Attorney Michael Moore told the Associated Press.
Boever’s family intends to seek civil damages from Ravnsborg – who did not attend the hearing that determined his fate – and blasted the light punishment imposed onto the powerful attorney general.
“If this was any normal person that did this, they would already be in jail. What he did was break his own law. His law states ‘Do not use your phone,’ and what did he do? He used his phone and ended up killing my husband,” said Boever’s widow Jenny.
“Why, after having to wait nearly a year, do we not have the chance to face him?” asked daughter Jane, referring to Ravnsborg – whom she said received a mere “slap on the wrist.”
Boever added that she and her relatives “do not feel a couple of fines is adequate for killing a man. Our brother lay in a ditch for 12 hours. This is inexcusable.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers in both political parties have been demanding that Ravnsborg resign but he has stubbornly refused to do so.
“I ran to be your attorney general because I believe in the law; I believe in fairness, due process, and doing what’s right,” Ravnsborg said in a statement. “Now, having experienced the legal system from both sides, I renew my commitment to be transparent and responsive to the needs of the people of South Dakota.”
Boever’s accidental death “weighs heavily on me and always will,” Ravnsborg said. “I’ve often wondered why the accident occurred and all the things that had to have happened to make our lives intersect. I’ve wished thousands of times our paths would have crossed under different circumstances.”
Kristi Noem, the state’s GOP governor, is encouraging the State Legislature to begin impeachment proceedings against Ravnsborg.
“Like many South Dakotans, I am not only disappointed in how this process was handled by prosecutors but outraged at the result of today’s plea hearing and sentencing,” she said. “Ravnsborg has not accepted responsibility for the death of Joseph Boever and did not even appear in court today to face the charges or the Boever family.”
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.