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After impeachment panel declined it, lawmakers hear Highway Patrol presentation on Ravnsborg crash

Trooper John Berndt (left) and Sargent Kevin Kinney (right) of the South Dakota Highway Patrol present their crash investigation findings to lawmakers and the public
Lee Strubinger
Trooper John Berndt (left) and Sergeant Kevin Kinney (right) of the South Dakota Highway Patrol present their crash investigation findings Wednesday at the Capitol Lake Visitor Center in Pierre.

Highway Patrol troopers say they were not allowed to give a presentation to a legislative impeachment inquiry about a fatal crash involving the attorney general.

But a broader group of lawmakers heard the presentation Wednesday at the Capitol Lake Visitor Center in Pierre. They’re preparing to vote next week on the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.

Two South Dakota Highway Patrol officers gave lawmakers a presentation of their fatal crash findings and answered any questions House lawmakers have about the crash.

The officers say Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was distracted when his car struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever, of Highmore, in September 2020. Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to a pair of misdemeanors in a criminal case stemming from the incident.

Sergeant Kevin Kinney says they had the presentation prepared for the House impeachment committee earlier this year. But Kinney says the committee decided not to hear it.

“We weren’t allowed to give the presentation or the overview of what our investigation entailed,” Kinney says. “We were only allowed to answer the questions they had in regards to Attorney General Ravnsborg’s crash.”

The Wednesday presentation lasted about an hour, and there was another half-hour of questions and answers. About 30 House lawmakers were in attendance in person or virtually.

Republican Rep. Tim Goodwin, of Rapid City, attended in person. He’s disappointed the impeachment committee did not see the presentation.

“I think it’s an absolute crime the select committee refused to see this briefing,” Goodwin says. “I’m going to encourage, as best I can, to have this briefing available so that everybody can see it on impeachment day — or have the opportunity to — and go from there.”

Republican Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch, of Glenham, who presided over the impeachment inquiry, has questioned why it seems the Department of Public Safety is pushing for impeachment. His committee recommended against impeachment.

Republican Rep. Will Mortenson, of Pierre, brought impeachment articles against Ravnsborg last year. The fatal accident took place in Mortenson’s legislative district.

Mortenson says evidence from the presentation only confirms what he knew 14 months ago — that Ravnsborg committed crimes and Joe Boever died as a result.

“His first statements after that were, ‘I’m the attorney general and I was in the middle of the road when I hit something.’ We now know that is just not true,” Mortenson says. “Where we go from here is not fully decided, but I know there’s a lot of folks in the House of Representatives who believe that crimes have taken place. That the constitution is clear that his crimes and malfeasance in office amount to items that we can impeach over. The exact shape of that we don’t know yet, but I know there’s a lot of folks who support that.”

The full House of Representatives meets Tuesday at the Capitol in Pierre to consider impeaching the attorney general.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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