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South Dakota prosecutors protected attorney general who killed pedestrian, but 67% want him gone


Will be impeached and removed but will not face prison time

Jason Ravnsborg refused to resign after being deemed culpable of negligently killing an innocent man walking along a highway in South Dakota last year. Republican prosecutors — including one who had graduated from last school with him — had protected the South Dakota attorney general from the most serious charges,


However, a recent poll indicates that the legislature, which will take up impeachment proceedings against him next week, shows that a vast majority of citizens want him impeached and removed from office.


The case is one that is outrageous. If he had been an ordinary person, he would currently be in prison — but not in South Dakota.


Public opinion is aligned against him in this case. It may not result in his being imprisoned, but the likelihood is that he will be removed and the family of the victim will receive a large sum of money.


Details


Here is what occurred with the manslaughter,


Ravnsborg, a Republican, is facing impeachment in the wake of a Sept. 12, 2020, car accident in which Ravnsborg struck and killed 55-year-old Joe Boever, who was walking along U.S. Highway 14 near Highmore, S.D. Ravnsborg later pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors of illegal lane change and using a cell phone while driving. He was fined but served no jail time.

Ravnsborg has faced strong criticism over his actions the night of the crash and since then, with Gov. Kristi Noem calling on him to resign. Ravnsborg, who was elected to a first four-year term in 2018, has refused to resign.


Bart Pfankuch, “Poll shows strong public support for removal of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg,” South Dakota News Watch, November 4, 2021


Poll results


The results of the poll show that the anger about this case is not based on politics,


As the South Dakota Legislature prepares to undertake impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who killed a pedestrian with his car in 2020, a new poll shows that a strong majority of state residents is in favor of removing him from office.

The late October poll of 500 registered voters in South Dakota showed that 66.8% of respondents strongly or somewhat support the removal of Ravnsborg by the Legislature, with 13.8% opposed and 19.4% undecided. Of all 500 respondents, 44.6% were strongly in favor of removal.


When the undecided respondents are removed, support for removal is even stronger, with 82.8% of those who have formed an opinion supporting removal.


Political party affiliation was not a major factor in difference in responses, with 72.3% of Democrats supporting removal; 65.6% of Independents supporting removal; and 64.3% of Republicans in support of removal.


Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch, November 4, 2021


People outraged


His legal life is about to change, and he will likely lose his law license over this. How can the top legal officer of a state be treated with kid gloves?


One South Dakota political science professor said the poll results are not unexpected given the high-profile nature of the case, and that a pedestrian was killed by the state’s top law enforcement official who admitted being distracted behind the wheel and who pleaded guilty to two crimes.


“It’s fairly obvious that a strong majority of South Dakotans are in some way, shape or form in favor of removing the attorney general from office, and I don’t think that’s all that surprising,” said Jon Schaff, government professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen.


“When a high-ranking government official, especially the chief law enforcement official of the state, hits and kills somebody, whatever the legal liability may be, it sort of damages your credibility as you represent the state in a court of law, and one big question is, ‘How can this guy operate effectively moving forward?’” Schaff said.


Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch, November 4, 2021


What is criminal is that prosecutors never charged him with any crimes other than a misdemeanor.


The man’s body was not found until a day later when the AG’s guilt drove him back to the scene of the crime. The man’s body was found on the side of the road, and authorities could not tell how long he had lived after the accident.


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