south dakota

South Dakota Attorney General Reported Hitting a Deer But Fatally Struck a Pedestrian

South Dakota attorney general Jason Ravnsborg speaking in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in September 2020. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/Shutterstock

South Dakota attorney general Jason Ravnsborg’s initial story about his accident on the night of September 12 left several key questions unanswered. Ravnsborg initially claimed that he hit a deer on U.S. Highway 14 on his way back to Pierre, the state capital, from a fundraiser 110 miles away. But the next day it emerged that he had struck and killed 56-year-old Joe Boever as the man was returning to his pickup truck, which was stuck on the side of the road after a prior collision with a hay bale. “A human doesn’t look like a deer,” said Boever’s cousin, a former South Dakota legislator, in September. “The whole thing stinks to me.”

The investigation into the crash, including interviews released by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety this week, further undermined the claims of the state’s top legal official. Among other details, detectives found Boever’s glasses in Ravnsborg’s Ford Taurus. “They’re Joe’s glasses, so that means his face came through your windshield,” one of the detectives told Ravnsborg in an interview in September. And though Ravnsborg said he didn’t see “anything” before he hit Boever, detectives told him that Boever would have been visible because he was carrying a flashlight, which would have been a “beacon of light” at night on a rural highway. Though Ravnsborg initially denied using his phone while driving that night, he admitted to using the device on the road, after detectives told him they had evidence of him doing so.

The new details about the crash come the week after prosecutors charged Ravnsborg with three misdemeanors, which all carry maximum penalties of 30 days in jail: operating a vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, illegal lane change, and careless driving. The attorney general is also facing calls to resign from Governor Kristi Noem and articles of impeachment formally introduced on Wednesday by a group of lawmakers led by Republican state representative Will Mortenson. “This is not political, and it is not personal,” Mortenson told the Argus Leader. “Again, I do not believe Attorney General Ravnsborg belongs in prison, but I know he does not belong in the Office of the Attorney General anymore.”

Ravnsborg, who was elected as South Dakota’s attorney general in 2018, has a less-than-sterling driving record, as the Argus Leader reports. In the six years leading up to the crash, he received six traffic tickets for speeding in the state, in addition to tickets for a seat-belt violation and for driving a vehicle without a proper exhaust and muffler system. He also has two older speeding tickets in Iowa. Ravnsborg’s office claimed in September that he had not been drinking at the fundraiser.

This post has been updated with new information regarding the investigation into Ravnsborg’s crash.

South Dakota’s Attorney General Fatally Struck a Pedestrian