The South Dakota House has impeached Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg for his conduct surrounding a fatal car crash in September 2020. It’s the first impeachment in state history and sends Ravnsborg to a trial before the state Senate next month.
The House approved two articles of impeachment with the minimum number of votes allowed, 36-31 with 3 members excused. While conviction by the Senate will require a 2/3rds majority, the state constitution requires only a simple majority.
One of the impeachment articles says Ravnsborg committed crimes that led to the death of pedestrian Joe Boever, while the other charges him with malfeasance for using his office to interfere in the investigation
Ravnsborg wrote all the House members ahead of the vote, urging them to vote for impeachment, warning that it would set a dangerous precedent to base impeachment on a traffic accident.
Ravnsborg said he didn’t and won’t resign because the incident did not impede his ability to do his job, including investigations into Gov Kristi Noem – who has pushed for a resignation or impeachment since shortly after the accident.
Ravnsborg said Noem would hand-pick his replacement if he was impeached, so he felt it best to stay in office and maintain the checks and balances of the government.
Although 31 House members voted against impeachment, only supporters offered floor arguments. A motion to remove the malfeasance charge as being an exaggeration of Ravnsborg’s actions failed 48-19.
With the House vote, Ravnsborg is suspended from office pending the outcome of the Senate trial. It can’t begin for at least 20 work days after he’s served with the articles of impeachment, so all that’s known about a date is sometime in May.
Ravnsborg pleaded No Contest to a pair of traffic misdemeanors in Boever’s death and was ordered to pay about $4,600 in fines and restitution, but received no jail time. He also did not appear in court for any of the proceedings against him.