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State Senate adopts rules for Ravnsborg impeachment

Jason Ravnsborg during a 2019 interview on SDPB's "South Dakota Focus."
Jason Ravnsborg during a 2019 interview on SDPB's "South Dakota Focus."

The South Dakota Senate will soon act as a court of impeachment.

Senators voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt the trial rules in the case of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.

Senators will convene on June 21 and 22 to hold the impeachment trial.

House lawmakers voted earlier this month to impeach Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg on two separate articles — one for crimes that led to the death of Joe Boever, and the other for malfeasance in office. Ravnsborg was driving a car that struck and killed Boever in September 2020, while Boever was walking along a rural highway.

Senators will vote on two questions: whether Ravnsborg should be removed from office, and whether he should be disqualified from future office. Both require a two-thirds majority vote.

Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, leads the state Senate. He says the trial rules are designed to create a simple and fair process.

“We’ve had the chance to watch a couple of impeachments on television and they’re all circus acts with everything but acrobats,” Schoenbeck says. “I think all of the circus aspects of the process have been removed. This is a clean process, while fairly protecting the rights of the attorney general to present his testimony.”

Schoenbeck says impeachment is a political trial, not a criminal or civil trial.

States Attorneys Mark Vargo, of Pennington County, and Alexis Tracy, of Clay County, will present the case for impeachment. Michael Butler is the attorney representing Ravnsborg. Each side will get six hours to present their case. There will be no time limit for Ravnsborg if he chooses to testify before the full Senate.

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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