The Washington Examiner reports that South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsorg (R) just became the first official in the state’s history to be impeached.
The South Dakota House of Representatives voted to impeach Ravnsborg during a special session held on Tuesday. The vote was 36–31.
Ravnsborg’s impeachment stems from an incident that occurred on Sept. 12, 2020, when he struck and killed a pedestrian while driving. The victim was identified as 55-year-old Joe Boever.
Boever was walking at night time near the shoulder of the highway when he was hit by Ravnsborg’s vehicle. Ravnsborg has claimed that he didn’t know what he hit, suggesting that it could have been a large animal. It wasn’t until the following morning, after Ravnsborg discovered the body, that he alerted authorities to what had happened.
Ravnsborg, since then, has pleaded “no contest” in court to the two misdemeanors that he was charged with, one for using a phone while driving and the other for making an illegal lane change. It was found, though, that Ravnsborg was not using a phone at the time he struck Boever.
Ravnsborg did not receive any jail time for the incident. Instead, he paid $4,000 in fines, and he settled with Boever’s wife for an undisclosed amount of money.
The South Dakota House spent months investigating the 2020 incident in order to determine whether or not Ravnsborg committed an impeachable offense.
The committee just released its finding on March 28. By a vote of 6–2, which went along party lines, the committee found that Ravnsborg did not commit an impeachable offense and that, accordingly, Ravnsborg ought not to be impeached.
Ravnsborg, prior to Tuesday’s impeachment vote, had asked state lawmakers to follow the committee’s recommendation. He wrote:
Your decision could overturn an election and set forth a dangerous precedent for all South Dakota elected officials. As such, I respectfully ask that you adopt the House Investigation Committees’ majority report and declare this matter complete and final and let the healing process continue.
Now that Ravnsborg has been impeached, the matter will head over to the South Dakota Senate. The state Senate will hold a trial and state senators will vote on whether or not to convict Ravnsborg. Two-thirds of the state senate would need to vote in favor of conviction for Ravnsborg to be removed from office.
It is unclear when the trial will start. The earliest possible date, per South Dakota’s constitution, would be May 2.
For now, Ravnsborg has been suspended from office.