• Sat. Sep 23rd, 2023


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South Dakota Removes Its Attorney General After Fatal Crash

The South Dakota Senate voted to remove the state’s attorney general, Jason Ravnsborg, from office on Tuesday evening in an impeachment trial after Mr. Ravnsborg fatally struck a man with his car in 2020.

Mr. Ravnsborg, a Republican, was convicted by the Senate of two charges: committing crimes that caused someone’s death, and malfeasance for misleading law enforcement and abusing the powers of his office. A conviction required support from two-thirds of South Dakota’s Senate, which is dominated by Republicans.

Gov. Kristi Noem, a fellow Republican who had repeatedly called on Mr. Ravnsborg to resign, applauded the decision.

“After nearly two years the dark cloud over the attorney general’s office has been lifted,” she said. “It is now time to move on and begin to restore confidence in the office.”

The South Dakota Democratic Party said in a statement that the “decision to impeach and remove him from office is an important last step in holding him accountable.”

The Senate also voted to bar Mr. Ravnsborg, who had said this month he would not run for re-election, from ever serving in public office in the state.

Mr. Ravnsborg did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Ms. Noem will appoint his replacement.

The conviction brought to an end a painful episode that has riveted South Dakota: In September 2020, Mr. Ravnsborg called 911 to report that he had hit something, possibly a deer, with his car while traveling at night on a rural highway. The next day, when Mr. Ravnsborg and others surveyed the scene where the collision had occurred, they saw that the car had struck Joe Boever, 55, who had been walking along the highway near Highmore, S.D.

Mr. Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges in connection with the crash, and was fined but did not serve jail time. Prosecutors who testified before a legislative committee said they did not have evidence to support more serious charges.

Mr. Ravnsborg, who had said little publicly about the case, released a letter the day before the impeachment vote, saying that he “could not resign then and cannot resign now because the incident did not impede my ability to perform the functions” of attorney general. He did not testify in his Senate trial.