State AG Who Ran Over a Man and Drove Away Seeks Second Term

  • In Politics
  • 2022-01-19 05:03:34Z
  • By The Daily Beast
Alex Wong/Getty
Alex Wong/Getty  

The man South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg ran over and killed in 2020 was stuck in his windshield for an undetermined amount of time after he was struck.

That was the testimony on Tuesday of an investigator who spoke during an impeachment hearing in Pierre, the state capital, nearly a year after Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to a pair of misdemeanor charges for the crash that killed 55-year-old Joe Boever on Sept. 12, 2020.

"When a body rides on a vehicle, we don't know exactly when that body separates from the vehicle," South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper John Berndt testified before the House Select Committee on Investigation, according to Argus Leader reporter Joe Sneve, who covered the lengthy hearing and provided a running report on Twitter.

Victim That South Dakota AG 'Didn't See' Came Through His Windshield, Investigators Say

"We don't know how long he rode on the vehicle or how long his face was in the windshield," Berndt continued. "Mr. Boever was struck on (the) passenger side ... his right leg was severed just below the knee."

Ravnsborg, who had been driving his red 2011 Ford Taurus at about 65 mph on the westbound lane of U.S. Highway 14 in central South Dakota, stopped his vehicle more than 600 feet after the moment of impact. He called 911, identified himself as the attorney general, and said he had struck something but wasn't sure what it was.

Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek, who lived nearby and responded to that call, said that he walked with Ravnsborg, who's said he'd thought he'd hit a deer, without finding Boever's body. Volek did not perform a breathalyzer test on Ravnsborg, who has said that he did not consume any alcohol at the GOP political event he was driving home from.

Volek, who died of a heart attack in November, then lent Ravnsborg his personal car to drive to his home to Pierre, about 50 miles away. Ravnsborg has said that he only found Boever's body when he drove back the following day to return the car to Volek, who never spoke to reporters or made a public statement about the fatal crash.

At the impeachment hearing on Tuesday, South Dakota Department of Public Safety Sgt. Kevin Kinney said he doesn't understand how Volek could have missed Boever's body, which was in relatively short grass next to the westbound shoulder.

"When I was on scene, the body was easily distinguishable," Kinney said.

When this reporter was at the scene a few days after the deadly incident, there was blood evidence showing that Boever had come to rest just inches from the shoulder of the road.

Boever's glasses were later found inside Ravnsborg's Taurus, while the other evidence, including blood, glass, and car parts, was all found on the north shoulder of the road, where Boever had been seen walking.

Five months after the crash, Ravnsborg was charged with careless driving, failing to stay in his lane, and using an electronic mobile device while driving. He was not on the phone at the moment of the crash.

Ravnsborg-who has a lengthy history of driving violations-said he had called his father and had been surfing the web on one of two phones he had with him, including looking at a right-wing blog post about the Biden family and China, despite the fact that state law forbids a driver from using a hand-held mobile device.

The House committee on Tuesday also asked South Dakota Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price about why some material, including video of Ravnsborg being interviewed by a pair of North Dakota lawmen brought in to assist in the investigation, was released to the public on Feb. 23.

Price said that he made the call to release the videos himself after consulting with legal counsel and with Gov. Kristi Noem, who has called for Ravnsborg to resign and encouraged the Republican-dominated Legislature to remove him from office if he will not.

"The decision to post it would be mine," Price said. "We made a promise to the public that we would release the report when it was complete and at the appropriate time."

The judge in the criminal case soon ordered the videos removed from a state website, but by then several news agencies had shared them, and copies still exist online.

The impeachment process, launched during the 2021 session, was halted to allow the legal process to run its course. Ravnsborg finally pleaded to a pair of misdemeanors while a third count was dropped.

He paid a pair of $500 fines, plus court costs, and that was that. The attorney general never appeared in court, nor did he surrender his driver's license. He was arrested for speeding four days before his case was set to go to trial.

Ravnsborg also reached an undisclosed settlement with Jenny Boever, Joe Boever's estranged widow, who had filed a civil suit.

Now Ravnsborg, who is seeking a second term, is being challenged for the Republican nomination by former Attorney General Marty Jackley, who was defeated by Noem in the 2018 gubernatorial primary. There is no primary for the AG position; the nominee will be selected at the South Dakota Republican State Convention this summer.

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