South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has been charged with three misdemeanors for a September incident in which he struck and killed 55-year old Joseph Boever with his car as Boever walked along Hwy 34 near Highmore.
The charges – careless driving, operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, and driving outside his lane – all carry a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail.
Prosecutor Emily Sovell says the evidence didn’t support a more serious felony such as vehicular homicide or manslaughter.
Manslaughter would require proving Ravnsborg “consciously and unjustifiably disregarded a substantial risk,” but nothing suggests he Ravnsborg was drunk or talking on his phone when he hit Boever. He gave his electronic devices to investigators and a blood sample roughly 15 hours after the accident showed no alcohol in his system.
The crash investigation with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, a crash reconstruction expert from Wyoming hired to avoid conflict of interest, cellphone GPS data, video footage from along Ravnsborg route, and DNA evidence concluded he was distracted when he hit Boever.
Ravnsborg was driving home from a Republican fundraiser about 10:30 pm on Sept. 12 when he thought he hit a deer. The attorney general stopped, called 911, and searched the area with the local sheriff but found nothing. He discovered Boever’s body the next day when he stopped at the site while returning a borrowed car to the sheriff.
Boever’s family has questioned Ravnsborg’s account and expressed frustration as more than 5 months passed without a decision on charges. Nick Nemec, a cousin, says he’s “disappointed, but not surprised” at the charges .
Nemec says he was “afraid the charge would be something on the order of crossing the white line and that’s exactly what the charge was – adding that South Dakota law is “weak” when it comes to manslaughter. Nemec expects the family to bring civil action against Ravnsborg