Days after South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg fatally struck a man while driving in September, detectives told the Republican official they’d found a pair of broken reading glasses inside his Ford Taurus. They belonged to the man he killed.
That was a problem, detectives said, because Ravnsborg, 44, said he didn’t know he’d hit a man until the following day, when he returned to the scene and found the body of Joseph Boever, 55, laying in a ditch.
“They’re Joe’s glasses, so that means his face came through your windshield,” one of the detectives said in an interview released by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety on Tuesday.
The interviews raise new questions about the conduct of the state’s top law enforcement official in the Sept. 12 incident, giving fuel to a chorus of lawmakers demanding that he leave office. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed two articles of impeachment against Ravnsborg, who has since been charged with three misdemeanors, and South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem called for his resignation.
But Ravnsborg said that he will not step down. “At no time has this issue impeded his ability to do the work of the office,” Mike Deaver, his private spokesman, said in a statement to the Argus Leader.
Boever’s cousin, Nick Nemec, said to The Washington Post that the new videos confirmed what he has always believed: Ravnsborg knew he had struck a man that evening, and drove away anyway.
“He knew there was a dead man in that ditch,” said Nemec, 62. “He knew what he hit and he lied.”
Ravnsborg’s office did not immediately respond to a message from The Post late on Tuesday.
Ravnsborg has said that he was driving home from a GOP fundraiser in Redfield, S.D., around 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 when his car hit a large figure in the dark. Ravnsborg said he believed he had hit a deer, and said he searched a ditch along Highway 14 with his cellphone’s flashlight.
“All I could see were pieces of my vehicle laying on and around the roadway,” he said in a statement. When the sheriff arrived, he added, they both searched more and found no evidence of anything or anyone in the ditch.
The next morning, Ravnsborg, who has said he was not drinking the night of the accident, and his chief of staff drove back to the scene. “As I walked along the shoulder of the road, I discovered the body of Mr. Boever in the grass just off the roadway,” Ravnsborg said. “It was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased.” Shortly after his discovery, he added, he drove to the sheriff’s home and reported the body.
Boever’s family told the Rapid City Journal that he had left his Ford pickup truck on the side of the highway earlier that day after driving into a ditch. It is unclear why he returned to his vehicle the night he was struck.
The family quickly cast doubt on Ravnsborg’s story, and said it took authorities nearly 24 hours to notify them of Boever’s death.
Last week, prosecutors announced three misdemeanor charges against Ravnsborg. If found guilty of all charges, Ravnsborg could face up to 90 days in jail and $1,500 in damages. Noem declined to comment on the charges at the time, adding, “My heart goes out to Boever’s family.”
But on Tuesday, as the state released two three-hour interviews between Ravnsborg and detectives, recorded on Sept. 14 and Sept. 30, Noem called for his resignation.
“Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the Attorney General should resign,” she tweeted. That same afternoon, a group of lawmakers led by Republican Rep. Will Mortenson filed two articles seeking to impeach Ravnsborg.
“This is not political, and it is not personal,” Mortenson told the Argus Leader. “Again, I do not believe Attorney General Ravnsborg belongs in prison, but I know he does not belong in the Office of the Attorney General anymore.”
The videos released on Tuesday shed more light on the criminal case against Ravnsborg.
At one point during the Sept. 30 interview, a detective presses Ravnsborg on why Boever’s glasses were found inside his car.
“His face was in your windshield, Jason. Think about that,” said a detective with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The attorney general denied seeing the pair of glasses inside his vehicle or on the man’s body.
Ravnsborg told the detectives he didn’t see “anything” before he struck Boever that night. But detectives noted that Boever would have been hard to miss because he carried a flashlight that would have been like “a beacon of light” in the dark night.
“I did not know until the next day. I did not. No. I’m a military guy. You do not leave people on the battlefield. You do not leave people behind,” added Ravnsborg, who is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves.
The South Dakota House is expected to formally introduce the impeachment articles on Wednesday. A simple majority vote would be needed to advance to the state Senate, where two-thirds of the senators would need to convict him to remove him from his position.
Nemec, Boever’s cousin, said he is disappointed that the lawmaker is not facing more serious charges.
“Deep inside, I was hoping he would be charged with involuntary manslaughter but that didn’t happen,” Nemec said. “He’s grossly undercharged.”