SD committee investigating AG subpoena crash investigators

South Dakota lawmakers have subpoenaed law enforcement officials and crash investigation documents as they weigh whether the state’s attorney general should be impeached for his conduct in a fatal car crash

Via AP news wire
Thursday 30 December 2021 00:37
South Dakota Attorney General Impeachment
South Dakota Attorney General Impeachment

South Dakota lawmakers on Wednesday subpoenaed law enforcement officials and crash investigation documents as they weigh whether the state's attorney general should be impeached for his conduct in a fatal car crash.

After meeting behind closed doors in executive session for two days, a House committee tasked with recommending whether Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg should face impeachment charges unanimously approved the subpoenas in a brief public session Tuesday. The committee — made of seven Republicans and two Democrats — indicated it will reconvene in January to hear from those who investigated the crash.

House Speaker Spencer Gosch, a Republican, said that as the committee sifted through the crash investigation file, “questions arose and we issued subpoenas to get our questions answered.”

The attorney general, a Republican elected to his first term in 2018, pleaded no contest in August to a pair of misdemeanors in the crash that killed Joseph Boever. The 55-year-old man was walking along a rural stretch of highway in September 2020 when Ravnsborg struck him with his car. Ravnsborg first reported the crash as a collision with an animal. He has insisted that he did not realize he had killed a man until he returned to the scene the next day and discovered Boever’s body.

The committee subpoenaed Secretary of Public Safety Craig Price, who oversaw the investigation, two agents from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which assisted in the investigation, a crash reconstruction expert, and a South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper. They also subpoenaed crash investigation documents, including from the Hyde County State's Attorney, which brought charges against Ravnsborg.

A spokesman for Ravnsborg did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gov. Kristi Noem a fellow Republican, has called for Ravnsborg to resign, and Price, her cabinet secretary, has said he believes the attorney general should have faced a charge of manslaughter.

The governor gave Gosch a copy of the crash investigation, which lawmakers reviewed during their private meeting. But Gosch said the committee was also subpoenaing the documents to make sure they received a complete record of the investigation.

“We spent a good, two long days going through a very big file and we are by no means all the way through that,” said Rep. Jamie Smith, a Democrat who has previously called for Ravnsborg's ouster.

He said the committee wanted to “be as transparent as possible" in its investigation but decided to initially meet in private because the crash investigation file contains “personal information that does need to be redacted.”

Lawmakers planned to meet in executive session on Jan. 17 to discuss what material should be redacted from the crash investigation, but Gosch said he planned for the testimony from law enforcement officials to happen in a public hearing.

If the investigative committee recommends impeachment charges be brought against Ravnsborg and a majority of the House were to approve the charges, Ravnsborg would then face a trial in the Senate It would take a two-thirds majority of the Senate to convict and remove him from office.

“I don’t anticipate this being a quick process,” Smith said. “This is a ton of information to go through.”

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