The South Dakota House voted Tuesday to impeach state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg over a car crash he was involved in back in 2020.
Ravnsborg killed a pedestrian but initially said he might have struck a deer or another large animal.
The GOP attorney general pleaded no contest in August 2021 to a pair of traffic misdemeanors in the crash, including making an illegal lane change. He has cast Joseph Boever’s death as a tragic accident.
In a vote of 36-31, Ravnsborg, who took office in 2019, became the first official to be impeached in South Dakota history.
As a result, he will be suspended from office pending a Senate trial, which could lead to his permanent removal from office if a two-thirds majority votes to convict him.
Republican state Rep. Will Mortenson, who filed the two articles of impeachment, said Tuesday’s vote would create a precedent.
“Never before in our state’s history has it been that a state official criminally ended the life of one of our citizens and refused to resign from that post,” Mortenson said on the House floor Tuesday, as per LA Times. “I believe impeachment should be reserved only for grave and exceptional circumstances, and I believe this is one.”
“Our top law enforcement officer has misled law enforcement during the investigation of those crimes,” Mortenson added.
In a statement after the vote, Ravnsborg said, “I respect the process but I look forward to the Senate trial where I believe I will be vindicated.”
Last year, Ravnsborg’s attorney, Tim Rensch, said the AG “didn’t want this fella to die” while insisting the fatal crash was accidental.
“Accidents happen, people die,” Rensch said. “Nobody blames the family for disliking greatly the person who is involved.”
Prosecutors dropped a third charge of careless driving. Ravnsborg was fined $ 500 by a judge on each count and was also ordered to pay more than $ 3,000 to cover costs associated with securing the scene of the fatal wreck. He was not given any jail time.
Rensch said it was “completely false” that Ravnsborg had to have known he hit a man, claiming he left the scene without malicious intent and has steadfastly maintained his innocence.
“I did not see him,” Ravnsborg said. “I did not see anything. I did not know it was a human until the next day. ”
Last month, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem upped the pressure on legislators to impeach Ravnsborg, repeating her calls for him to be removed from office.
Noem applauded the House after Tuesday’s vote, writing on Twitter“Today, the House of Representatives did the right thing for the people of South Dakota and for Joe Boever’s family.”