“People make mistakes and we’re thinking you made one”: Ravnsborg interviews reveal new details of fatal crash
PIERRE, S.D. — Two interviews conducted with South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg reveal phone use may have played a larger role in the events leading up to the fatal crash that left 55-year-old Joseph Boever dead west of Highmore. Special Agents also discussed pieces of evidence at the scene that would have indicated to Ravnsborg that he had hit a person with his car.
The interviews were released late Tuesday by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety at the direction of Governor Kristi Noem. Both interviews were conducted by Special Agents of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation on September 14 and 30. The crash occurred September 12, just west of Highmore. Ravnsborg’s vehicle struck Boever, who was walking on the north shoulder towards Highmore.
In the first interview, the agents piece through the series of events that led to the crash and Ravnsborg’s recollection of his actions thereafter. Ravnsborg affirms multiple times through the interview that he did not drink alcohol at the Republican function he attended earlier that evening. Toxicology reports later confirm his statements, though his blood samples were not drawn until the following day.
Special agents also asked Ravnsborg about a pair of glasses that were found in the vehicle – Ravnsborg denying they were his.
It wasn’t until the second interview that more information comes to light about the sequence of events and pieces of evidence left at the scene, including the glasses.
Agent: “What is the last thing you remember before impact?”
Ravnsborg: “I think that I had just shut the radio off and looked down at the speedometer. I mean, I shut the radio off just soon from Highmore in, from Highmore to the site. Somewhere and then I think I looked down at the speedometer. I had just seen the speed signed and did not engage the cruise.”
Ravnsborg affirmed in the second interview that he had not been on either of his phones during the crash, stating he had left one phone on the passenger seat and the second on the center console.
Ravnsborg: “I don’t not use my phone, but I did not use it at the time of the crash.”
Agent: “But were you using it up to the time of the crash?”
Ravnsborg: “Not that I can recall.”
Agent: “The phones will actually tell us, Jason. So, they’re pretty straight forward.”
Ravnsborg continued to reiterate where he believes his phones to be at the time of the crash. The agents began to question Ravnsborg as to his email accounts, asking when he may have logged into them while on his phone. Later in the interview, the agents tell Ravnsborg that cell phone records indicated he did check his email and did have political articles pulled up on his phone until about a minute until the accident.
“Jason, we have a job,” said one of the agents. “People make mistakes and we’re thinking you made one.”
Later in the interview, the agents shift the questioning back to the glasses that were found in Ravnsborg’s car. Once the Hyde County Sheriff arrived on scene, Ravnsborg says he gathered documents from his car, both above the visor shade and in the glove box, noting he was avoiding the glass on the inside of his car.
Agent: “Did you see the glasses right next to [the glass]?”
Ravnsborg: “I did not. You showed me the glasses.”
Agent: “They’re Joe’s glasses.”
Ravnsborg: “I worried…I wondered about that.”
Agent: “That means his face came through your windshield.”
Following the crash, Ravnsborg says he had gotten out of the car to confirm his location in Highmore and to search the area around his car, noting a piece of debris from his car.
According to the agents, Boever had been carrying a flashlight as he walked toward Highmore. When investigators examined the scene, they say the flashlight was still on and after reconstructing the scene after dark, they say it was “hard to miss” given how dark it was at night and it’s proximity being within two feet of the roadway.
Of the individuals on scene prior to Ravnsborg returning to the scene the following morning, Sheriff Mike Volek of Hyde County and the tow truck driver did not see Boever’s body.
The agents questioning centered on how Ravnsborg could not have known what he hit, if he claims he was not on his phone, and how he did not notice the glasses in his car nor the flashlight near Boever’s body.
Governor Kristi Noem called on Ravnsborg to resign now that charges had been filed and interviews released. Articles of Impeachment filed on Tuesday call for his removal given the three misdemeanors he’s charged with and for his actions following the collision.
The articles were formally read into the state House Wednesday afternoon and referred to the House State Affairs Committee, where it now awaits its first official hearing.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General says Ravnsborg does not intend to resign. “At no time has this issued 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.”