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Our view: A good thing happened in South Dakota: The state Senate voted to remove Jason Ravnsborg from office

A Republican-dominated state Senate heard evidence, overcame any instinct to protect one of their own and voted to remove Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg from office after he struck and killed a pedestrian with his car in 2020.

Herald pull quoted, 6/25/22
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A good thing happened this week in South Dakota – something that comes after a tragic incident and ugly chapter in that state’s history.

A Republican-dominated state Senate heard evidence, overcame any instinct to protect one of their own and voted to remove Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg from office after he struck and killed a pedestrian with his car in 2020.

This is justice. This is right. And this is how it should be.

It all comes from an oft-reported September 2020 incident in rural South Dakota. Ravnsborg had been attending a political fundraiser in Redfield, S.D., when his car struck “something,” as he told 911 shortly after it happened. He wondered if it was an animal, perhaps a deer.

In the days and weeks afterward, Ravnsborg maintained he didn’t know he had hit a man – 55-year-old Joe Boever – until the next day, when he actually helped locate the body in the ditch.

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But too many inconsistencies existed in Ravnsborg’s story.

Investigators say the impact forced Boever’s face through the windshield of the car – his glasses were even found in the vehicle. Ravnsborg claimed he wasn’t distracted, but crash reconstructions determined all four of his tires were on the shoulder of the road when the impact happened. Investigators also found that he had been looking at news articles and blog posts on his phone approximately a minute before the crash.

Two days later, Ravnsborg met with a state forensics expert about what kind of data can be recovered from cell phones. It was an uncomfortable meeting, according to Brent Gromer – who had since retired from the state Department of Criminal Investigation – who said “we were not supposed to be involved.”

And it all comes after Ravnsborg has repeatedly flouted traffic laws. In April, Forum News Service reported that Ravnsborg has been named in 27 traffic stops across three states and ticketed a dozen times. From the time he took office until the incident on the road near Redfield, he was stopped at least eight times – six times while driving a state vehicle. On at least four occasions, he identified himself as the attorney general and another he displayed his AG badge to the officer. He was not cited in any of those stops.

“The attorney general's actions ... along with the context provided by the pre- and post-crash behaviors draw the conclusion that he is unfit to hold the position as the chief law enforcement officer for the state of South Dakota,” Craig Price, Department of Public Safety secretary wrote in a report.

We agree. And so did members of South Dakota’s Senate.

On Tuesday, two months after the South Dakota House of Representatives voted for impeachment, the Senate convicted Ravnsborg and removed him from office. He was also barred from office.

Too many inconsistencies exist in Ravnsborg’s story from the night he killed Boever. Combine that with the numerous traffic violations – along with tacky mentions of his position and title – and it’s too much stacked against a man whose job is to be that state’s top law enforcement official.

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He was rightfully removed from office, and the impeachment trial occurred without politics taking center stage.

Yes, a good thing happened in South Dakota – something that should serve as a cautionary tale for public servants and an example for elected bodies everywhere.

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