PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Legislature's efforts to impeach Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg for behavior surrounding his fatal vehicle crash with a pedestrian last fall, at least for now, appears to be going out with a whimper.
On Monday, March 8, the House of Representatives voted 57-11 — with a handful of Republicans and two Democrats in opposition — to approve an amended resolution that, ostensibly, presses pause on two articles of impeachment of Ravnsborg.
Lawmakers say they'll wait for a county circuit judge to decide whether the AG is guilty of three misdemeanors related to his distracted driving on the evening of Sept. 12 that led to 55-year-old Joseph Boever's death before reopening their case.
Standing to introduce his resolution, Rep. Will Mortenson, a Pierre Republican, told the chamber the Legislature's hands were tied by a gag order issued two weeks ago by a judge against all members of state government.
"After the initial filing of this resolution, the judge in the case — considering the three criminal charges against the attorney general — ordered the crucial facts surrounding the fatality and investigation be sealed," Mortenson said. "I understand and agree that any such proceedings cannot happen without such facts presented."
The first-time lawmaker urged resuming the impeachment proceedings when a "fair and transparent" hearing can happen.
Just two weeks ago, Mortenson filed for the first time in state history an impeachment resolution of a constitutional officer, saying Ravnsborg — both in his distracted driving the night of the crash, as well as his conduct afterward — rendered him unfit to hold the office as the state's top law enforcement officer.
The impeachment resolution also was accompanied by calls for the AG's resignation from Gov. Kristi Noem and other top public safety officials, including Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price.
But following the state's release of videos between Ravnsborg and North Dakota investigators, Judge John Brown ordered the videos be removed and further evidence be kept secret while a Sully County deputy state's attorney presses charges against Ravnsborg.
Ravnsborg is facing three misdemeanor charges in Hyde County, S.D., related to careless driving, use of a cellphone, and using an illegal lane in the Sept. 12 crash that killed pedestrian Joseph Boever, 55, of Highmore, S.D. Each carries a potential penalty of $500 and/or 30 days in county jail.
The AG makes his first court appearance in Pierre on Friday, March 12.