The smoke you're inhaling isn't all from Canadian wildfires. Much of that stench is coming from a South Dakota smokescreen where Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is employing the oldest courtroom tactic in the book. Blame the victim.
On Sept. 12, 2020, Ravnsborg struck and killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever on the shoulder of the road near Highmore, S.D. Now, Ravnsborg's attorney has convinced a judge to open Boever's mental health records, suggesting that Ravnsborg was just cruising along, minding his own business, when Boever, walking with flashlight in hand toward his disabled pickup, suddenly had the uncontrollable urge to commit suicide by attorney general.
Please. There's been little transparency from Ravnsborg in this case but this ploy is transparent enough. They're grooming potential jurors. All they need is one to declare reasonable doubt and Ravnsborg and his political career go their merry way.
He'd love to change the subject from his Chappaquiddickesque behavior after the accident. First, the story was that he must have hit a deer although Boever's glasses were found inside Ravnsborg's car near the glovebox. Then, we're supposed to believe that Ravnsborg couldn't see the body on the shoulder of the road, flashlight still glowing, according to investigators, when he walked past it.
MORE ON THE RAVNSBORG CASE:
- Judge in Ravnsborg case OK's opening pedestrian victim's mental health records
- Ravnsborg attorney: Victim struck on shoulder of road may've initiated collision
- Without an 'in-between' law in South Dakota, state's AG faces small penalty in deadly crash
Ravnsborg, who was returning from a Republican soiree in Redfield, S.D., borrowed the sheriff's personal car — standard procedure, I guess — to drive back to Pierre after the crash, returning the next morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with an overriding compulsion to check on the near-sighted deer. Lo and behold, it was Boever, who was last (not) seen with his head poking through Ravnsborg's windshield. Surprise! Who would have guessed? Not to speak ill of the dead, but judging by the way the perpetrator was lying there, he must have looked pretty suicidal.
That next day Ravnsborg subjected himself to a blood-alcohol test. Surprise again! Clean as a whistle. Move along folks. Nothing to see here. Just a dead man who closely resembled a suicidal whitetail. Case closed.
Except that Ravnsborg was driving on the shoulder of the road when Boever was struck. So maybe it was assisted suicide. Maybe Ravnsborg's the Jack Kevorkian of attorneys general, putting troubled pedestrians out of their misery like Congressman Bill Janklow used to do with troubled motorcyclists. To be fair, it wasn't Janklow who was responsible for all those speeding tickets and blown stop signs. It was diabetes.
But isn't assisted suicide illegal in South Dakota? Pshaw! You can't even be convicted of vehicular homicide in South Dakota if you weren't buzzed at the time, and clearly, based on the flawless investigation and inscrutable chain of evidence, Ravnsborg wasn't.
He's charged with three misdemeanors: operating a vehicle while using a cell phone, illegal lane change, and careless driving. He faces up to 90 days in jail — 1.6 days for every year of Boever's abbreviated life. Seems fair.
A stand-up guy might have at least resigned. For one thing, it would give Ravnsborg more time to fine-tune his narrative as the true victim in this case. But there's hope his career can be salvaged. Ted Kennedy recovered from Chappaquiddick after everything Mary Jo Kopechne put him through to become the Lion of the Senate.
It's more likely, though, that Ravnsborg will be remembered as the Lyin' King.
Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of this publication, nor Forum Communications ownership.