South Dakota AG dodges jail in fatal crash, enraging victim’s family

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South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg pleaded no contest Thursday to misdemeanor charges in a car crash last year that killed a pedestrian whom he said he initially thought was a deer.

Ravnsborg, 45, will avoid jail time after pleading no contest to operating a motor vehicle while using an electronic device and driving outside of his lane in the September crash that killed Joseph Boever, 55, along a rural highway, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.

Prosecutors dropped a third charge of careless driving. Ravnsborg was fined $500 by a judge on each count and was also ordered to pay more than $3,000 to cover costs associated to securing the scene of the fatal wreck, the newspaper reported.

Judge John Brown said he didn’t think a jail sentence was appropriate in the case. He also denied a request by Boever’s family that Ravnsborg cover the cost of the late man’s funeral.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg pleaded no contest in a car crash that killed Joseph Boever.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Brown initially granted the family’s request that the attorney general perform public service for the next five years near the date of Boever’s death, but put the order on hold after an objection by Ravnsborg’s attorney.

Boever’s widow, Jenny Boever, said Ravnsborg has “taken away my will to live” while telling Brown she disagreed with his decision of no jail time in the case. Both charges carry sentences of up to 30 days in jail and $500 fines.

“If this was any normal person that did this, they would already be in jail,” Jenny Boever said. “What he did was break his own law. His law states ‘Do not use your phone’ and what did he do? He used his phone and ended up killing my husband.”

Jenny Boever intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Ravnsborg in civil court, the newspaper reported. Boever’s sister, Jane Boever, accused the AG of showing a lack of remorse and “callousness” in the aftermath the fatal wreck.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg
The judge in Jason Ravnsborg’s case, John Brown, said he didn’t think a jail sentence was appropriate.
Dirk Lammers/AP Photo

“We do not feel a couple of fines is adequate for killing a man,” Jane Boever said Thursday. “Our brother lay in a ditch for 12 hours. This is inexcusable.”

Ravnsborg’s attorney, Tim Rensch, said the AG “didn’t want this fella to die” while insisting the fatal crash was accidental.

“Accidents happen, people die,” Rensch said. “Nobody blames the family for disliking greatly the person who is involved.”

Rensch said it was “completely false” that Ravnsborg had to have known he hit a man, claiming he left the scene without malicious intent and has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

Ravnsborg, who did not attend Thursday’s hearing, told investigators following the crash in his 2011 Ford Taurus that he thought he had hit a deer. He said he didn’t realize he hit a person until he returned to the crash scene the following day and found Boever’s body.

“I did not see him,” Ravnsborg said. “I did not see anything. I did not know it was a human until the next day.”

A blood sample taken about 15 hours later showed no alcohol in Ravnsborg’s system. Investigators have said the AG — a Republican elected in 2018 — was distracted when he slammed into Boever as the man walked along the shoulder of US Highway 14 west of Highmore on Sept. 12.

Ravnsborg, of Pierre, was returning home after attending a GOP fundraiser in Redfield. Prosecutors have said he was on his phone roughly one minute prior to the crash, while records indicate the device was locked at the moment of impact.

The embattled AG has resisted calls to resign and the South Dakota House of Representatives voted in March to suspend two articles of impeachment against the state’s top law enforcement official until the outcome of his criminal case.

Ravnsborg’s spokesman said in February he had no plans to step down.

With Post wires

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