By MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News
(PIERRE, S.D.) — Nearly a week after the South Dakota attorney general was charged with three misdemeanors for fatally striking a pedestrian on a highway last year, the South Dakota governor has called on him to resign and released investigation interviews that detail the incident, and state lawmakers have begun impeachment proceedings against him.
Jason Ravnsborg, 44, was charged with operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile device, lane driving violation and careless driving stemming from the Sept. 12 crash. Ravnsborg was not on his cell phone at the time of the impact but was outside the lanes of travel, state attorneys said, when he hit the 55-year-old victim, Joseph Boever, on U.S. Highway 14, about a mile west of Highmore, South Dakota. The accident did not meet the conditions for manslaughter, they said.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem called on Ravnsborg to step down following the charges on Tuesday.
“Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the attorney general should resign,” she said in a statement.
Noem also released two interviews on Tuesday spanning over three hours total that law enforcement officials conducted with Ravnsborg in the days and weeks following the fatal incident. The governor said she reviewed the material and encouraged “others to review it as well.”
During the interviews, Ravnsborg repeated that he did not know what he struck on the dark highway, but assumed it was a deer “because what else would there be.” He said he called 911 and looked around a ditch with a cell phone flashlight, but didn’t discover Boever’s body until returning the following day to survey the debris.
The investigators pressed Ravnsborg on his cell phone use while driving along Highway 14 that night. They also informed the attorney general that a broken pair of Boever’s glasses ended up inside his car, coming through the windshield, according to the interviews released by Noem.
“His face was in your windshield, Jason. Think about that,” one of the investigators said.
A distressed Ravnsborg responded that that “pains me tremendously to hear.”
The investigators also questioned how Ravnsborg could have overlooked Boever and his flashlight, which they said was still on the next day.
“It truly is hard to miss when you’re out there,” one said.
In response, Ravnsborg said, “I’m obviously not as observant as I should be.”
An investigation completed a month after the crash initially determined that Ravnsborg was distracted when he struck Boever with his 2011 Ford Taurus. But last week, state attorneys said that at the time of impact, Ravnsborg was not a distracted driver based on an analysis of two cell phones he had on him.
In a statement, Ravnsborg’s spokesperson said the attorney general “does not intend to resign.”
“At no time has this issue impeded his ability to do the work of the office. Instead, he has handled some of the largest settlements and legislative issues the state has ever been through,” the statement said. “As an attorney and a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserves, AG Ravnsborg has fought for the rule of law and personal liberties and would hope that he is afforded the same right and courtesy.”
While the state released the videos of the interviews, state lawmakers were also launching impeachment proceedings against the attorney general. The resolution, filed Tuesday and introduced on the House floor of the South Dakota State Capitol Wednesday, includes two articles of impeachment and charges that Ravnsborg be removed from office “for his crimes or misdemeanors in office causing the death of Joseph Boever.”
Rep. Will Mortenson, who filed the resolution, said it was “the most difficult decision I’ve ever made.”
“My heart breaks for all parties involved in this case, but it became time to do what is right, even if it is difficult and uncomfortable,” he said on social media.
The resolution is now pending its first committee hearing. Ravnsborg’s spokesperson told ABC News they haven’t been able to review the full document yet.
Ravnsborg, who was elected in 2018, was not placed under administrative leave and continued to work after the crash.
The attorney general has a string of previous driving violations, according to state records. He pleaded guilty to speeding six times between 2014 and 2018 and paid fines between $19 and $79, according to state records.
ABC News’ Karma Allen, Joshua Hoyos, Julia Jacobo, Jennifer Leong and Ivan Pereira contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.