South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has reportedly settled on his legal defense strategy: blaming the man he killed.
The embattled AG originally told 911 dispatchers that he hit a “deer” in “the middle of the road” on the night of Sept. 12, 2020. Ravnsborg later admitted to the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office that he struck and killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever who was walking on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 14 when he died–but only after the dead man’s bloody corpse was discovered early the next morning.
The GOP official–who briefly faced possible impeachment over the killing–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 those “Class 2” misdemeanors carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
In a Friday court filing, defense attorney Timothy J. Rensch petitioned presiding Sixth Circuit Judge John L. Brown for a court order to release Boever’s records from at least five medical facilities “for exculpatory information concerning his suicidal ideation.”
According to The South Dakota Standard, Ravnsborg wants Boever’s medical files from Avera St. Luke’s Hospital in Aberdeen, Avera St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre, Avera Medical Group Pierre, Aberdeen Psychiatric and the South Dakota Human Services Center in Yankton.
The effort appears to be premised on the word of Boever’s cousin Barnabas Nemec, who recently penned a letter to Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Sovell, herself one of Ravnsborg’s former law school classmates at the University of South Dakota.
In that letter, Nemec, who doesn’t live in the Mount Rushmore State, wrote 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,” he added.
Two of Barnabas Nemec’s brothers–also Boever’s cousins–take issue with the suicide theory of the tragic events that September night.
“Barnabas lives in suburban Detroit, Michigan,” Nick Nemec told the Standard. “I don’t know how he would have been able to observe anything to make any judgment call.”
Victor Nemec told the Daily Beast that he gave his dead cousin a ride on the last night of his life after Boever had crashed his own truck into a bale of hay. The soon-to-be dead man wasn’t drunk or drinking that night, Victor Nemec said, and there was no alcohol in his home either.
The Nemecs who do live in-state have long questioned the integrity of the investigation into Boever’s death–as well as Ravsnborg’s various versions of what transpired that fateful night.
Authorities have produced evidence that purports to show the defendant was scrolling his phone at the time of the incident–while reading various right-wing conspiracy theory-themed websites.
Further complicating the attorney general’s narrative is the fact that Boever’s reading glasses were recovered from inside his Ford Taurus–because Boever’s head was stuck inside the windshield.
“His face was in your windshield, Jason,” an interrogator told Ravsnborg during a custodial interview that was released by state authorities before Judge Brown ordered that footage taken out of public view because it might influence the trial. “Think about that.”
The glacial pace of the case not withstanding, other oddities have generated headlines for months in the scandalized prosecution.
Notably, a blood sample wasn’t taken from Ravnsborg by local sheriff’s deputies until some 15 hours after the fatal crash. That sample turned up no alcohol in a toxicology report.
Ravnsborg, after his car was wrecked, drove home that night in the personal vehicle of Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek.
Notably, Boever’s blood still stained the highway’s shoulder as of February this year.
In the Friday filing, the defendant’s attorney offered a novel new twist to the case that clashes directly with the public evidence so far:
The evidence on the roadway and shoulder as examined by law enforcement the day after the death of Mr. Boever was different than it was the night before as there was wind, continued vehicle travel, and movement of the Ravnsborg vehicle by law enforcement in the interim. Nonetheless a bolt remained on the roadway, while paint chips were blown to the grass on the edge of the shoulder. This is consistent with impact between the Ravnsborg vehicle and Mr. Boever on the roadway rather than the shoulder.
In other words, the defense’s theory is that Boever was suicidal and not actually on the shoulder of the road when he struck and killed by Ravsnborg.
Nick Nemec vehemently disagreed with the defendant’s new strategy.
“He was on the shoulder of the road,” he told the Standard. “Joe was on the shoulder of the road. So, that I would think would indicate he wasn’t out trying to jump in front of the car.”
“Ravnsborg is a miserable human being,” he added in a social media post referencing a news article about the attorney general’s blame-the-victim strategy.
Law&Crime reached out to Rensch for comment on this story but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
Ravnsborg’s trial is currently slated for August 26.
The defense successfully made a bid to keep cameras out of the courtroom late last month.
[image via Department of Public Safety Interrogation Video]
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