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Special session begins formal process to investigate, impeach South Dakota AG

The first impeachment trial in the history of the state of South Dakota has officially commenced.
South Dakota lawmakers convened on Nov. 11 for a special legislative session to begin the...
South Dakota lawmakers convened on Nov. 11 for a special legislative session to begin the formal process of investigating and considering the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.(Dakota News Now)
Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 3:53 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. - For the first time in South Dakota state history, the legislature has begun the process of impeaching an elected official.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg will face a committee of house lawmakers who will determine whether the Attorney General should face an impeachment vote in the full state house.

Lawmakers passed the resolution to create a “select impeachment committee” during a special session on the topic Tuesday morning by a vote of 58-10. All ten votes against the resolution were made by Republican lawmakers.

The only change to the original resolution that was proposed by House Speaker Spencer Gosch was an amendment by State Representative Will Mortenson (R-Pierre), which would make it so the committee will release information that isn’t considered “non-confidential or non-relevant.”

“It makes clear that the committee is the arbiter of what information is redacted and what is made public,” Mortenson said on the House floor about his amendment. “It states right in there that confidential information, such as sensitive legal files, victim information, things dealing with HIPAA and such will not be released. It will all be redacted, and it makes sure everyone in this House of Representatives has access to all of the information.”

Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham), who chairs the select committee, said that he does not have a timeframe in mind as it relates to deciding when the committee might be done with its work.

“We are delving into unknown territory,” says State Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence). “This has never been done before. I for one, really don’t understand what an impeachable offense is, and as we go through this process, I need to have that question answered for me.”

On September 12, 2020, Ravnsborg was traveling late on a highway near Highmore after attending a political fundraiser. Ravnsborg called 911 and explained to a dispatcher that he had struck something with his car and was unsure what he had hit. Ravnsborg discovered the body of 55-year-old Joseph Boever the next morning when returning to his vehicle. Ravnsborg later told investigators he thought he struck a deer while driving home.

Ravnsborg avoided a trial and took a plea deal in August. Ravnsborg pled no contest to two misdemeanor charges in a plea deal with prosecutors.

State officials have said that they will not release the full investigation file to the public, but they did release a cover letter authored by Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price which outlines what is included in the investigation file.

In the letter, Secretary Price also states he believes Ravnsborg should have been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Price says the South Dakota Highway Patrol was “ready and willing” to provide testimony regarding the crash and the investigation.

Ravnsborg has not responded to a request for comment on the matter.

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