State House impeaches attorney general
House lawmakers have impeached Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
It’s the first impeachment of a statewide officeholder in South Dakota history.
The supermajority Republican House of Representatives narrowly approved the articles of impeachment — getting exactly the 36 votes required. There were 31 votes against impeachment, and three lawmakers were excused.
The impeachment articles conclude Ravnsborg committed crimes that led to the death of pedestrian Joe Boever, and that Ravnsborg used his office to benefit himself in the investigation into the matter. Ravnsborg was driving a car that struck and killed Boever in September 2020. Ravnsborg pleaded no-contest to a pair of misdemeanors stemming from the accident.
Rep. Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, brought the articles of impeachment, even though the Republican majority of an impeachment committee had earlier recommended against impeaching Ravnsborg.
“I didn’t try to influence anybody, really, outside of stating what I thought the duties of that office is, what I think is owed to the people of South Dakota,” Mortenson said. “Those were the things I was firm and steadfast in.”
The family of Joe Boever watched the proceedings from the gallery above the House floor. Boever's widow, Jenny Boever, clutched a photo of her and Joe on their wedding day.
“I know we have a little ways to go,” Jenny Boever said. “I’m working on closure slowly. This does not come easy by any means.”
Ravnsborg is now temporarily prohibited from exercising the duties of his office. Impeachment heads to the Senate next. There, state senators will determine whether Ravnsborg should be permanently removed from office.
The Senate trial cannot occur until 20 days after Ravnsborg has been served with the impeachment articles. A two-thirds majority vote of the Senate is required to remove Ravnsborg.
Ravnsborg is in the final year of his first term in office. If the Senate removes him, Gov. Kristi Noem could appoint a replacement to serve until the end of Ravnsborg’s term in January.
Meanwhile, Republicans will choose their nominee for the office this summer, and voters will choose the next attorney general in the November general election. A former attorney general, Republican Marty Jackley, has already announced his candidacy and has Noem's endorsement.
Ravnsborg issued a statement following the House impeachment proceedings.
"The House of Representatives voted and I respect the process," Ravnsborg says. "But I look forward to the Senate trial where I believe I will be vindicated."