Historic Impeachment Trial in South Dakota Concludes


Update: The South Dakota Senate on Tuesday convicted Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg of two impeachment charges stemming from a 2020 fatal accident, removing and barring him from future office in a stinging rebuke that showed most senators didn’t believe his account of the crash. Ravnsborg, a first-term Republican who only recently announced he wouldn’t seek reelection, showed little emotion as senators convicted him first of committing a crime that caused someone’s death. They then delivered another guilty verdict on a malfeasance charge that alleged he misled investigators and misused his office, the AP reports. Ravnsborg is the first official to be impeached and convicted in South Dakota history. Our original story from Tuesday follows:

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg lied to investigators and abused the power of his office after he struck and killed a pedestrian, prosecutors argued Tuesday at the opening of an impeachment trial that could remove him from office. Ravnsborg’s attorneys countered that such an action would improperly undo the will of voters for what he has maintained was an accident, the AP reports. He has insisted that he did not realize he struck and killed pedestrian Joseph Boever until he returned to the crash site the next day and discovered the 55-year-old’s body. Ravnsborg has said he first believed he hit a deer or large animal.

Ravnsborg, a Republican who only recently announced he wouldn’t seek a second term, faces two charges in the state’s first-ever impeachment trial. Criminal investigators, some lawmakers, and the victim’s family questioned Ravnsborg’s truthfulness over his actions following the 2020 crash. Senators may also vote on whether Ravnsborg should be barred from holding future office. The GOP-controlled Senate, which has 32 Republican members and three Democrats, will hear from impeachment prosecutors, defense attorneys, crash investigators, and former members of Ravnsborg’s staff.

It will take 24 senators, or two-thirds of the body’s 35 members, to convict Ravnsborg on either of two articles of impeachment: committing a crime that caused death, and malfeasance. As the two-day trial opened Tuesday, prosecutors drove at a question that has hung over developments since the September 2020 crash: Did Ravnsborg know he killed a man the night of the crash? Ravnsborg resolved the criminal case last year by pleading no contest to a pair of traffic misdemeanors, including making an illegal lane change and using a phone while driving, and was fined by a judge. (Read more Jason Ravnsborg stories.)

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