South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg Charged With Careless Driving In Man’s Death, Avoids Manslaughter Charge
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) was charged with three misdemeanor charges on Thursday after hitting and killing Joseph Boever in a car accident last September.
Having avoided a felony charge, Ravnsborg was charged with careless driving, driving out of his lane and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone. He could face up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for each charge.
Ravnsborg said he was grateful to the legal system for assuming his innocence at this time. He also extended condolences to Boever’s family, saying he couldn’t imagine the “pain and loss” they felt.
Boever’s cousin Victor Nemec said he was not surprised by the charges, but he was still disappointed.
“This state is well known nationwide for being lenient when it comes to elected officials getting in trouble,” Nemec told NBC News.
Emily Sovell, deputy Hyde County state’s attorney, said there was no evidence that Ravnsborg was impaired at the time of the accident and there was not enough evidence to charge him with something more serious, such as vehicular homicide or manslaughter.
Sovell said vehicular homicide charges in South Dakota required proof that the offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time. There was no evidence that Ravnsborg was intoxicated at the time of the accident, despite his blood not being tested until 15 hours after the incident.
“There was a very, very thorough investigation conducted for every step that was taken by him in the hours preceding and nothing was indicative of him being under the influence of any alcohol or drugs,” Sovell said.
She also added that manslaughter could not be applied to this case because it would call for reckless behavior that’s “more than just a mere ordinary negligent standard” and “operation of a motor vehicle in violation of a law is not in of itself sufficient to constitute the recklessness required.”
On Sept. 12, Ravnsborg struck Boever on U.S. Highway 14 late at night while driving home from a Republican banquet event. The crash report, which was released in early November, said Ravnsborg was distracted at the time of the crash. Phone records show that Ravnsborg was not on his phone for more than a minute before the crash.
Boever was reportedly returning to his truck which was stuck on the side of the highway. Nemec said he did not know why his cousin was out there so late at night.
Ravnsborg reported the accident to the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office that night, saying he believed he hit a deer. Boever’s body was discovered the next day.
Despite avoiding felony charges, Boever’s family could still file a lawsuit against Ravnsborg.
“My heart goes out to Joseph Boever’s family,” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said in a statement on Twitter. “I am not going to comment on the specifics of Ms. Sovell’s decision. I am directing the Department of Public Safety to share additional details of the investigation with the public within the next week.”
My heart goes out to Joseph Boever’s family. I am not going to comment on the specifics of Ms. Sovell’s decision. I am directing the Department of Public Safety to share additional details of the investigation with the public within the next week.
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) February 18, 2021
Matters like this are usually investigated by the South Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which answers to the attorney general’s office. Other agencies worked on this investigation to avoid conflicts of interest.