Senate convicts AG Jason Ravnsborg of embezzlement after pedestrian death, votes to impeach him

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Update 5:30 p.m.:

PIERRE — The South Dakota Senate voted to impeach Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg during his impeachment trial on Tuesday.

The Senate voted to convict and remove Ravnsborg from office after hours of testimony, questioning and closing arguments for his role in the death of Joe Boever in September 2020.

The group of lawmakers needed a two-thirds majority vote or more for each of the two separate articles of impeachment Ravnsborg faced, including crimes causing death and embezzlement in office, which were passed by the South Dakota House of Representatives earlier this year.

After: Noem says ‘dark cloud’ over Attorney General’s office lifted with Jason Ravnsborg stepping down

The Senate voted 24 to 9 in favor out of 35 on the first article of impeachment for crimes causing death and for the removal of Ravnsborg from office.

The Senate voted 31 to 2 in favor out of 35 on the second item, Malfeasance in Office.

The Senate also voted to permanently disqualify Ravnsborg from “holding any office of trust or profit” in South Dakota, based on the outcome of the two articles of impeachment.

Ravnsborg has been suspended from office since those articles were passed in April.

After: Jason Ravnsborg breaks silence, says he won’t seek re-election days before impeachment trial

The seat of Attorney General is currently up for election in November. Ranvborg has already confirmed that he does not intend to run again.

Read the full story here.

Earlier today:

PIERRE – South Dakota’s first-ever Senate impeachment trial begins this morning at the state Capitol.

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, arraigned at the State House this spring for crimes and embezzlement in office stemming from a fatal accident 647 days ago, will stand trial in the two-day hearing that will decide the political future of the 46-year-old Republican.

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The trial ends nearly two years of uncertainty around the attorney general’s office and Ravnsborg, who struck and killed a pedestrian while driving in the summer of 2020.

Here’s a look at what led to Ravnsborg’s impeachment and what’s at stake in the trial, which begins at 8 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

A Twitter list by argusleader

The fatal accident

The first-term Attorney General on the evening of September 12, 2020, had traveled from a political office in Redfield, SD to his home in Pierre. While passing through Hyde County, Ravnsborg’s vehicle collided with Joseph Boever, 55, who police say was walking along the road near the town of Highmore when he was killed.

In the moments after the crash, Ravnsborg called 911, identified himself to the dispatcher as the South Dakota attorney general, and said he wasn’t sure what his car had come in with. colliding.

Previously: South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg reads criminal complaint in fatal accident case

Neither the responding officer, Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek nor Ravnsborg reported seeing Boever’s body in the ditch. Ravnsborg reported discovering Boever’s remains the next morning while returning a personal vehicle Volek had lent him to drive home the previous evening.

Investigation

With Ravnsborg in charge of South Dakota’s Criminal Investigation Division, which typically investigates cases involving government officials and law enforcement, the Highway Patrol brought in investigators from out of state to examine the circumstances of the accident.

They determined that Ravnsborg had used his phone during his commute that evening, but not at the time of the accident. However, his vehicle was out of the traffic lane at the time of impact, contrary to what Ravnsborg had reported on the night of the crash and in subsequent statements.

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Related: Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s journey from night of fatal accident to impeachment: timeline

Joe Bever

Police believed Ravnsborg was distracted at the time of the accident, but what that distraction was has never been determined. Ravnsborg did not explain why his vehicle was out of the traffic lane.

Criminal conviction

Ravnsborg was found guilty of a pair of misdemeanor traffic offenses – a lane violation and using an electronic device while driving – in August 2021. Neither charge amounted to criminal culpability for the death of Boever.

indicted

The South Dakota House of Representatives in November 2021 launched its own investigation into Ravnsborg’s conduct. And in March, the House Select Committee on Investigation recommended that the attorney general not be removed.

Jenny Boever, widow of the late Joe Boever, smiles and cries simultaneously after the Senate voted to convict Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg on both articles of impeachment Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at the South Dakota State Capitol in Stone .

Jenny Boever, widow of the late Joe Boever, smiles and cries simultaneously after the Senate voted to convict Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg on both articles of impeachment Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at the South Dakota State Capitol in Stone .

After: Jason Ravnsborg breaks silence, says he won’t seek re-election days before impeachment trial

But 36 of the 70 members of the State House disagreed and instead voted on April 12 to impeach Ravnsborg on the grounds that he had been convicted of crimes stemming from the crash, that he was not honest with law enforcement following Boever. died and that he abused his position as Attorney General.

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The South Dakota Senate Impeachment Trial

With Ravnsborg impeached by the House, the Senate is now considering whether to find him guilty of the articles of impeachment.

Senate trial rules passed in April direct that proceedings begin at 8 a.m. on both days and run no later than 8 p.m. each day.

Mark Vargo, the Pennington County State’s Attorney who for a time assisted the Hyde County State’s Attorney’s prosecution team, will lead the prosecution on behalf of the Senate. He will be assisted by Clay County State’s Attorney Alexis Tracy.

The couple intend to call a host of witnesses on the stand during the two days of proceedings, including former Ravnsborg employees whom they had asked for information about cellphone forensics after the crash.

Accident investigators in North Dakota and South Dakota are also expected to speak out as part of the prosecution strategy.

Jason Ravnsborg and his attorney, Mike Butler, depart the SD Capitol after Ravnsborg was found guilty of both articles of impeachment and voted to be removed from the Attorney General's office Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at the State Capitol in South Dakota to Pierre.

Jason Ravnsborg and his attorney, Mike Butler, depart the SD Capitol after Ravnsborg was found guilty of both articles of impeachment and voted to be removed from the Attorney General’s Office Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at the State Capitol in South Dakota to Pierre.

In Ravnsborg’s corner will be Mike Butler, a prominent South Dakota defense attorney, who will attempt to show that Ravnsborg is not guilty of the charges set forth in the articles of indictment.

Butler has not submitted a list of potential witnesses to the Senate and is instead expected to rely on oral arguments and cross-examination of prosecution witnesses to make Ravnsborg’s case.

Members of the Senate have been told by chamber leaders that they will be able to ask questions of witnesses through Vargo and Tracy.

To convict on articles of impeachment, the South Dakota Constitution requires a two-thirds affirmative vote. That means it will take at least 23 affirmative votes from senators to force Ravnsborg out of office.

Beyond revoking the position he currently holds, senators will also decide whether Ravnsborg’s conduct should prevent him from detaining an official in South Dakota again, also triggered by a two-thirds majority vote. .

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: South Dakota Senate Rules AG Jason Ravnsborg Out of Office

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