South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravensborg lied to investigators and abused his office authority after he beat a pedestrian to death, prosecutors argued Tuesday at the start of an impeachment hearing that could have fired him.
Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.
Ravensborg, a Republican, recently announced that he did not want a second term, facing two charges in the state’s first impeachment trial. Criminal investigators, some lawmakers and the victim’s family questioned Ravensborg’s honesty in his actions after the 2020 crash. Senators can also vote on whether to prevent Ravensborg from running for office in the future.
However, the outcome of the two-day process ends a chapter that has rocked state politics, with Republican Gov. Christie Noem facing backlash from some within her own party against Rawansborg and her aggressive attempt to oust him.
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Clay County State Attorney Alexis Tracy, who is leading the prosecution, said: “In the moments that followed, he saw exactly who he was hitting.
Despite telling crash investigators “false statements and complete lies,” after the crash, prosecutors told senators that Ravensborg used his title to “set the tone and gain influence.” The prosecution played a montage of Ravensborg audio clips claiming to be attorney generals.
When they questioned the crash investigators, prosecuting attorneys investigated Ravensborg’s alleged false statements after the crash, in which he said he had never driven beyond the speed limit, that he had reached out to the Bower family to express his sympathy, and that he had not browsed. His phone on the way home.
Ravensborg said he had done nothing wrong and that the impeachment trial was an opportunity to clear himself. He settled a criminal case last year and was fined by a judge for not giving any competition to a couple of traffic abusers such as changing an illegal lane and using the phone while driving.
The Attorney General’s Defense focused its arguments on the implications of impeachment during the opening remarks on Tuesday, urging lawmakers to consider the implications of their decision on the performance of the state government. Ravensborg tapped Ross Garber, a law analyst and law professor at Tulane University who specializes in the impeachment process.
“It’s a violation of the will of the electorate,” Garber told the Senate. “Make no mistake, that’s what you plan to do.”
Ravensborg was on his way home from a political fundraiser after dark on September 12, 2020, when his car collided with “something” on the state highway in central South Dakota, according to his 911 call transcript. He later said it could be a deer or other animal.
Ravensborg said neither he nor the county sheriff, who arrived at the scene, knew he had beaten a man – Joseph Bower – 55, until he returned to the scene the next morning.
Investigators say they suspect some of Ravensborg’s statements. In a previous testimony to lawmakers, they concluded that they had walked past Attorney General Bower’s body and that the flashlight was still carrying Bower – still glowing the next morning – as he looked around the scene of the night of the crash.
There’s no way you can go without seeing it, “said Arnie Rummel, an agent with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which led the criminal investigation.
Prosecution attorneys set a timeline Tuesday night and drilled seconds before and after the crash. They raise the fact that crash investigators who examined Ravensborg’s cell phone found limited GPS data within minutes of the attorney general walking into the crash scene.
Cassidy Holseth, a North Dakota bureau of criminal investigation agent who examined Ravensborg cell phones, said he could not explain why the phone had accurate GPS data for those minutes, but found no indication that Ravensborg had tampered with the phone.
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However, after submitting his phones to crash investigators, three days after the crash, prosecutors also raised an exchange between Ravensborg and one of his staff. Ravensborg questioned an agent in the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation about what happened during the forensic examination of his cell phones, although the agency had no part in the investigation to avoid conflicts of interest.
“We do not need to be involved,” said Brent Gromer, a retired agent.
Investigators found what Ravnsborg thought were slips in his statements when he said he “saw” him before wandering around the scene of the accident and quickly correcting himself: “I did not see him.” And they argue that Bower’s face came through Ravensborg’s windshield because his glasses were visible in the car.
On Tuesday, Ravensborg’s defense also referred to the decision of criminal prosecutors to charge him only with traffic misconduct. Defense said Ravensborg fully cooperated during the trial and made his false statements due to human error. His defense attorney, Ravensborg, was ready to do the polygraph test, but criminal investigators concluded that testing the attorney general’s honesty would not be effective.
The GOP-regulated Senate, which includes 32 Republicans and three Democrats, listens to former members of impeachment prosecutors, defense attorneys, crash investigators and Ravensborg staff.
It takes 24 senators or two-thirds of the 35 members of the body to convict Ravensborg on any of the two articles related to impeachment: crime and abuse that cause death.
He accused the investigators of misleading and abusing his office authority. Investigators say Ravensborg asked the state department of the Criminal Investigation Agent what crash investigators could find on his cell phone. He said he only wanted factual information.
Noem called on Ravensborg to resign immediately after the crash and later urged lawmakers to continue the impeachment. Noem also publicly endorsed Republican Marty Jacqueline, the ancestor of Ravensborg, for the election in his place. If Ravensborg is forcibly evicted, the governor will appoint an interim to replace him until the new attorney general elected in November is sworn in.
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Ravensborg argues that the governor, who defended himself for the 2024 White House bid, was under some pressure for his removal as he investigated ethical complaints against Noem.
Ravensborg agreed to an unknown settlement with Bower’s widow in September.