South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) will take a plea deal for “misdemeanor traffic charges” after striking and killing a man last year while driving home from an event, prosecutors told the Associated Press on Wednesday. Ravnsborg was scheduled to face a two-day trial starting on Thursday.
“[T]here won’t be a trial and there will be a plea entered,” Beadle County State’s Attorney Michael Moore told the AP. But Moore refused to provide additional details, citing a judge’s gag order which banned state officials from discussing the case.
Ravnsborg was charged with one count each of careless driving, operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, and a lane-changing violation. Each of the alleged crimes is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor and is punishable by a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Vanity Fair, which first reported the news of the possible plea, said Ravnsborg “is expected to plead no contest to two of the three charges, according to a source familiar with the matter.” It is unclear which two charges would be involved.
Ravnsborg’s office did not immediately respond to a request from the AP for comment. Timothy Rensch, an attorney representing Ravnsborg, was not immediately available for comment when his office was reached by Law&Crime.
Ravnsborg faced the three misdemeanor charges in the death of Joseph Boever, 55, along a rural stretch of U.S. Highway 14 on the night of Sept. 12, 2020. The AG told 911 dispatchers that he thought he hit a “deer” in the “middle of the road.”
Video of Ravnsborg’s subsequent police interrogation spread online. A judge overseeing the matter ordered state officials to remove it from official government websites, but it survives online because news organizations quickly disseminated it when it was originally released.
“His face was in your windshield, Jason,” an interrogator told Ravsnborg. “Think about that.”
The interrogators made that claim because Boever’s reading glasses were said to have been recovered from inside the Ford Taurus that Ravnsborg was driving.
Authorities have suggested that Ravnsborg was reading various right-wing conspiracy-theory-themed websites in the seconds leading up to the crash.
A cousin told prosecutors that Boever “was an admitted alcoholic with a brooding depressive streak unparalleled by anyone else I have ever known.”
“I believe with a very high degree of confidence Joe committed suicide by throwing himself into the path of a speeding car,” that cousin added.
But other relatives fought back at those claims. One said Boever had crashed his truck shortly before he died but that he was not drunk, was not drinking, and had no alcohol in his home.
It was contested leading up to this week whether Boever was struck while on the shoulder of the highway or whether he was struck while in the lane of vehicular travel.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a fellow Republican, called on Ravnsborg to resign. Citing the need for “due process,” the Republican-controlled South Dakota legislature refused to impeach Ravnsborg. The legislature’s decision conflated the impeachment process, which is political in nature, with the constitutional rights afforded to defendants in criminal trials.
Editor’s note: this report, which began as breaking news, has been substantially updated and clarified since its initial publication.
[image of Ravnsborg via Fox News screengrab; interrogation video and image of car via the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.]
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