South Dakota attorney general pleads no contest, avoids jail in fatal crash

·2 min read

By Barbara Goldberg

(Reuters) - South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg on Thursday pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges for a September 2020 car crash that killed a pedestrian, avoiding jail time but still potentially facing political trouble.

At a court hearing in Fort Pierre, South Dakota, Ravnsborg's attorney entered the pleas on charges of making an illegal lane change and using a phone while driving, Beadle County State's Attorney Michael Moore said in an email.

A third misdemeanor charge of careless driving was dropped as part of the deal.

The Republican attorney general was driving home from a fundraiser the night of Sept. 12 when he hit and killed Joseph Boever, 55, who was walking along a highway in Highmore, South Dakota, about 50 miles east of Pierre.

Ravnsborg told police he believed he had run into a deer, rather than a person, until he returned to the scene the following day to find the body of the victim lying in a roadside ditch.

Toxicology tests released by state authorities showed no evidence of impairment.

Ravnsborg faced up to 30 days in jail for each charge. But Circuit Judge John Brown instead ordered him to pay $500 for each of the two counts and to perform public service over the next five years around the date of the crash.

Ravnsborg's attorney, Tim Rensch, objected to the public service, saying it was not allowed by the statute, Moore said. Brown then put that order on hold for further review.

The attorney general did not appear in court. His lawyer and the attorney general's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, demanded Ravnsborg step down after the crash, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced an impeachment resolution in the state's Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Legislative leaders, who suspended the impeachment action until the criminal charges against Ravnsborg were resolved, now are set to revisit impeachment proceedings.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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