SD Attorney General charged with three misdemeanors for deadly crash
PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has been charged with three misdemeanors after fatal crash that killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever.
In a press briefing Thursday afternoon, Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Sovell announced Ravnsborg is charged with operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile or electronic device, violation of lane driving, and careless driving. Each is a class two misdemeanor, punishable up to 30 days imprisonment in a county jail, a $500 fine or both.
Investigators said previously that Ravnsborg was distracted on Sept. 12 when he drove onto the shoulder of Highway 14 near Highmore, striking and killing 55-year-old Joe Boever.
Ravnsborg said at first he thought he’d hit an animal, but found Boever’s body the next day when he returned to the scene. In a statement released after the crash, Ravnsborg stated that at no point did he or Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek, who responded to the scene, believe that the collision was with a person.
While Ravnsborg is charged with using his phone while driving, prosecutors clarify that the charge does not relate to the moment Boever was struck with the vehicle on Sept. 12. Sovell says the charge relates to phone use while Ravnsborg was east of Highmore, earlier in the day. The accident occurred west of Highmore and Sovell clarified that “at the time of impact [Ravnsborg] was not a distracted driver.”
Beadle County State’s Attorney Michael Moore assisted in the investigation and clarified the timeline in which Ravnsborg had used his phone prior to the accident:
10:22:22 p.m. Ravnsborg’s phone was locked
10:23:37 p.m. Ravnsborg’s vehicle struck Boever
10:23:52 p.m. Ravnsborg’s vehicle came to a stop
10:24:06 p.m. Ravnsborg’s phone was unlocked
10:24:22 p.m. Ravnsborg placed a 911 call
Moore went on to explain that phone records indicate Ravnsborg walked the area around the vehicle and near the area where Boever’s body was located. Investigation into Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek’s phone indicated he walked the area around the vehicle at approximately 10:44 p.m.
At the time of the accident, prosecutors say Ravnsborg was traveling at 67 mph and had been driving in the shoulder prior to the accident. Sovell and Moore say it is unclear how long Ravnsborg’s vehicle was outside the lane or why he was outside of the lane.
Further details relating to witness statements are being held pending the active nature of the case.
Sovell explained why homicide charges were not pursued. In reading the state’s statutes, vehicular homicide requires a driver to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving in a negligent manner.
Blood alcohol samples were not taken from Ravnsborg until the day after the crash, which drew criticism from the public. Sovell clarified the investigation was very thorough in determining any potential influence and she concluded that there was “nothing indicative to him being under the influence.”
Criticism for the case also came from the Governor’s office in questioning the duration of the investigation. Sovell also addressing the response as a deliberate action to create separation from political and public office.
“I respect the public thirst for knowledge but as you all well know, investigations are not public,” said Sovell. “I did my very best to preserve the integrity of the investigation.”
She says the Hyde County State’s Attorneys Office, which is normally staffed part-time with one to three employees, received many inquiries and taking the time to respond to each and everyone would have not been practical.
Ravnsborg was charged by complaint and prosecutors say a special judge will likely be appointed to handle the case.