South Dakota AG got speeding ticket days before crash trial

·3 min read

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota’s attorney general was ticketed for going 57 in a 35 mph zone last week, just days before he pleaded no contest to traffic charges for a car crash that killed a pedestrian last year.

Jason Ravnsborg, the state's top law enforcement officer, received a ticket late Sunday, Aug. 22 in Hughes County, where he lives. He was charged with “Speeding on Other Roadways" — a second-degree misdemeanor — and fined $177.50. Dakota News Now first reported the ticket. Ravnsborg has not paid the fine or admitted guilt.

On Thursday, the Republican attorney general pleaded no contest to a pair of second-degree misdemeanors for a crash last year that killed Joseph Boever, who walking on a rural highway. He avoided jail time but had to pay over $4,500 in fees.

Circuit Judge John Brown tried to order Ravnsborg to “do a significant public service event” in each of the next five years near the date of Boever's death. Ravnsborg's attorney, Tim Rensch, objected to that order, arguing that the punishment timeline exceeded the maximum 30-day jail sentence allowed by law. Rensch said he heard from the judge Tuesday that extended public service would not be a part of Ravnsborg's punishment, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

Ravnsborg was not charged with speeding in the fatal crash. Prosecutors said he was going two miles over the 65 mph speed limit at the time of impact, but they decided that didn't justify a traffic charge. Instead, they charged him with making an illegal lane change, using a phone while driving and careless driving. Prosecutors dropped the charge of careless driving as part of the plea deal.

Before the crash last year, Ravnsborg had accumulated eight traffic tickets over seven years, including six speeding tickets in different counties. However, he was not in danger of losing his driver’s license.

The attorney general's chief of staff, Tim Bormann, declined to comment on the ticket, saying it was a personal matter for Ravnsborg. Mike Deaver, who has been acting as Ravnsborg's spokesman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors said Ravnsborg was on his phone roughly one minute before last year's crash, but phone records showed it was locked at the moment of impact. Ravnsborg told investigators that the last thing he remembered before the crash was turning off the radio and looking down at his speedometer.

Gov. Kristi Noem has renewed pressure to force the attorney general from office, even as he has repeatedly defended his job performance. After the trial concluded last week, she said she would hand over the crash investigation file to the House speaker to consider impeachment charges.

Rep. Will Mortensen, a freshman Republican legislator from Hughes County, had introduced impeachment proceedings in February. But impeachment quickly stalled in the House, and lawmakers said they would revisit the matter after the trial concluded. Mortensen said lawmakers were still considering whether to move forward with impeachment.

“I continue to be hopeful that the attorney general will step down,” he said.

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This story has corrected a quote from Rep. Will Mortensen. He said he was “hopeful” the attorney general would step down, not “helpful.”

Stephen Groves, The Associated Press

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