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State Senate hears opening arguments in Ravnsborg impeachment trial

Clay County State's Attorney Alexis Tracy gives the prosecution's opening statement in the impeachment trial of Jason Ravnsborg.

The impeachment trial of South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg began this morning with the prosecution arguing that Ravnsborg abused his office following a 2020 traffic crash, and the defense arguing that the matter does not rise to the level needed to remove an elected official from office.

This is the first Senate impeachment trial in state history.

Ravnsborg was driving a car that struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever along a rural stretch of highway in September 2020 near Highmore.

The Senate will consider two articles of impeachment — one alleging Ravnsborg committed crimes while driving, and a second alleging he abused his office during the investigation.

In an opening statement, the prosecution referenced location data from Ravnsborg's phone and interviews he did with law enforcement.

"A man lost his life due to the attorney general's distracted driving," said Alexis Tracy, a state's attorney from Clay County. "The attorney general has had countless opportunities to do the right thing, and at virtually every opportunity, he has chosen not to."

Ravnsborg is represented by Sioux Falls lawyer Mike Butler and by Ross Garber, who teaches at Tulane Law School and has represented officials in other states during impeachment proceedings.

"I have found no record of any attorney general, certainly in the modern era, being impeached and removed,” Garber said. "It is quite a thing to reverse the will of the voters."

The trial is scheduled for two days. Senators will determine whether to remove Ravnsborg from office, and whether he should be disqualified from holding future office.

SDPB is broadcasting the proceedings live on its radio, television and internet platforms.

Jason Ravnsborg during Senate impeachment trial
Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, center, during his impeachment trial Tuesday. He is joined by attorneys Ross Garber, left, and Mike Butler, right.

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