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Calling Ravnsnborg impeachment probe a 'cover-up,' South Dakota lawmaker seeks answers from state officials

“A cover-up is what this is. It’s as bad as the crime," said Rep. Tim Goodwin, R-Rapid City, referring to a House committee that recommended against impeaching Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. State officials will answer lawmaker questions about the Ravnsborg investigation on Wednesday, just six days before the full House consider impeachment.

Committee members
Members of the House Select Committee on Investigation listen and take notes during testimony on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, surrounding Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg's crash.
Hunter Dunteman / Mitchell Republic
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PIERRE — At a South Dakota legislator's request, state officials will brief lawmakers on their findings from investigations into Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg's fatal crash after the legislator called the legislative impeachment inquiry "a cover-up."

Rep. Tim Goodwin, R-Rapid City, told the Mitchell Republic on Monday that he had requested the meeting after the 2022 legislative session took the attention of lawmakers away potentially impeaching Ravnsborg, who struck and killed a pedestrian with his car near Highmore, South Dakota, on Sept. 12, 2020.

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Rep. Tim Goodwin
JOHNNY SUNDBY

The briefing, scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Capitol Lake Visitor Center in Pierre, will be held just six days before the House of Representatives will meet to "investigate and evaluate whether Ravnsborg's conduct surrounding the death of Joe Boever involved impeachable offenses."

Goodwin's call comes after the House Select Committee, who met eight times between November 2021 and March 2022, voted 6-2 on party lines to recommend Ravnsborg not be impeached.

Calling the committee’s opinion a “cover-up,” Goodwin found oddities in the majority report.

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“How can you be the number one law enforcement officer in the state and then lie to law enforcement officers? Right there he should be impeached,” Goodwin said, adding that he, personally, had asked Ravnsborg to resign. “A cover-up is what this is. It’s as bad as the crime."

He also pointed to the committee’s interpretation of what it means to be “in office.”

“Then they used the ‘in office’ clause. What the hell is the ‘in office’ clause?” Goodwin asked. “I don’t know what they mean by that, but it seems pretty weak.”

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Jennie Boever, center, widow of Joe Boever, wipes away tears while sitting next to her mother Deanne Smith and Joe's cousin Nick Nemec while in the gallery listening to the House chambers vote on impeachment during a special session at the state capital in Pierre.
Mitchell Republic File Photo

In the majority report, the House Select Committee opined that because Ravnsborg was returning from a campaign event that was not directly a duty by virtue of the Office of the Attorney General, he did not commit any misdemeanors “in office” — a pivotal burden in impeachment proceedings.

“I understand he was undercharged, but after that, the cover-up is just unbelievable,” Goodwin said. “This is just wrong. It’s an embarrassment to the state.”

Neither House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, nor Rep. Mike Stevens, R-Yankton, the committee's chair and co-chair, respectively, were available Monday to respond to Goodwin's comments.

Goodwin believes that had Ravnsborg resigned, it would have spared himself and the family of Joe Boever a lot of time and emotional distress.

Feeling dissatisfied with the result of the Select Committee’s investigation, he requested the South Dakota Department of Public Safety hold a briefing for legislators to ask any outstanding questions and get a better grasp on what they may have missed during an already hectic legislative session.

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“We just felt that we didn't have time to actually handle the impeachment along with all the stuff we had going on this session,” Goodwin said. “They put together [the House Select Committee on Investigation] and they met quite a few times … They came out with the reading that they didn't think there's grounds for impeachment.”

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This photo of Jason Ravnsborg's vehicle after striking and killing Joe Boever was released as part of hundreds of over 200 documents made publicly available by the South Dakota House Select Committee on Investigation on Thursday, March 28.
Photo courtesy of the South Dakota House Select Committee on Investigation

Ahead of Wednesday’s briefing, DPS released over 400 pages of reports Monday from the South Dakota Highway Patrol that supplement the over 200 multimedia documents already publicly released by the Legislature.

The reports cover the full extent of SDHP's investigation into the the 2020 crash that killed Joe Boever , Ravnsborg's history of traffic stops as well as narratives from many troopers working the scene — whether they interacted directly with Ravnsborg and his vehicle or not.

Goodwin believes Wednesday’s briefing will be beneficial to lawmakers who weren’t a part of the House Select Committee — if they can attend.

“There’s only two representatives that live in the Pierre area,” Goodwin said. “I think it’s going to be something they should look at so they can see what’s going on here.”

Though the briefing is being held in person, lawmakers who can’t make it will be able to join the meeting via Zoom, however representatives are not required to be in attendance.

The event's announcement did not specifically state who would be answering questions.

Goodwin, however, believes lawmakers need to vote with their conscience instead of relying on the House Select Committee’s recommendation or party politics.

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“I hope we can go in and have an active debate and the people on the floor can vote their conscience,” Goodwin said, noting he hopes political pressures are set aside. “The body itself, the eight Democrats of course are upset … and you need 36 for a simple majority.”

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Jason Ravnsborg

According to the House's calendar, if it is determined in their April 12 special session that Ravnsborg did, in fact, commit impeachable defenses, the House will "conduct further impeachment proceedings thereon and legislate on matters involving the attorney general's office."

Ravnsborg has refused to resign. He is still running for another term as the state's attorney general, according to the Secretary of State's candidate listing. In a June primary, he'll face former attorney general Marty Jackley — who despite running against Noem for governor in 2018, was endorsed by her against Ravnsborg.

Dunteman covers general and breaking news as well as crime in the Mitchell Republic's 17-county coverage area. He grew up in Harrisburg, and has lived in South Dakota for over 20 years. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 after earning his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He can be reached at HDunteman@MitchellRepublic.com, or on Twitter @HRDunt.
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