Gov. Noem called on Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to resign Tuesday and released videos of two police interview he gave after fatally hitting a pedestrian with his car in September.
“Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the Attorney General should resign. I have reviewed the material we are releasing, starting today, and I encourage others to review it as well," Noem said in a statement.
Noem's comments come more than five months after Ravnsborg hit and killed pedestrian Joe Boever, and five days after prosecutors announced he would be charged with three misdemeanors but no felonies.
The Journal wanted to ask what made Noem to now decide to call for Ravnsborg’s resignation, but her spokesman Ian Fury said she’s not making any more statements today.
Ravnsborg is “not planning to resign at this time,” said his personal spokesman Mike Deaver.
Noem’s statement adds to the mounting pressure on Ravnsborg to resign after he was charged last Thursday.
Rep. Tim Goodwin, a Republican whip from Rapid City whose job is to gain support from his fellow lawmakers, said Monday that Ravnsborg should resign and that lawmakers were considering impeachment if he doesn’t.
“It is my hope that Attorney General Ravnsborg resigns rather than going through this investigation and impeachment vote in the House and likely the state Senate,” Sen. Reynold Nesiba, a Democrat from Sioux Falls, tweeted Tuesday morning.
Articles of impeachment were then introduced Tuesday afternoon. House Resolution 7001 gives two reasons for the impeachment proceedings: Causing the death of Boever and for statements and actions following Boever’s death that failed to meet the standard of the Office of Attorney General.
Noem supports the impeachment effort, Fury said. The governor would have the power to appoint a new attorney general if Ravnsborg resigns or is impeached, according to the South Dakota Constitution.
Noem never said Ravnsborg should step down or take a leave of absence during the investigation and denied reports that she asked him to resign in the days after the crash. She did not call on him to resign last Thursday, after his charges were announced, but ordered the Department of Public Safety to release more materials from the investigation into the crash.
DPS posted links to two YouTube videos on its website on Tuesday in response to Noem's order. One video is an hour-long interview Ravnsborg gave to law enforcement on Sept. 14, two days after the crash. The other is a two-hour long interview from Sept. 30.
"Both interviews were conducted by Special Agents of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation," DPS said in a news release. "Portions of the audio and video have been redacted because the Attorney General referenced confidential information that is not relevant to this crash investigation."
Ravnsborg was driving in the highway shoulder near Highmore when he hit and killed Boever, a 55-year-old from Highmore, on Sept. 12, according to prosecutors.
The attorney general said in a Sept. 14 statement that he thought he hit “a large animal." He said he didn't realize he hit and killed a person until he returned to the scene the next morning and found a body “just off the roadway."
He said he found Boever after stopping to see if he could find the dead deer he thought he hit when he was on his way to return the personal vehicle that the Hyde County Sheriff let him borrow to drive home to Pierre the night before. Ravnsborg said he drove to the sheriff’s nearby home to report the body instead of calling 911.
Ravnsborg is charged with unsafely driving outside a lane and careless driving in relation to him hitting Boever. He's also charged with using his phone while driving before the crash occurred.
All three charges are Class 2 misdemeanors, each punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine.
Prosecutors said they didn't find evidence to prove that Ravnsborg acted in a way that meets the legal definition of "reckless," a fact needed to secure a second-degree manslaughter charge. Unlike many other states, South Dakota does not have a negligent homicide law, they noted.
Ravnsborg will be issued a summons to appear in Hyde County Court where the case will be overseen by special judge John Brown, the former presiding judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit.
He has not yet hired a lawyer and an initial court date has not yet been set.
Ravnsborg is also expected to face a wrongful death lawsuit by Boever's widow.
— Contact Arielle Zionts at firstname.lastname@example.org.