South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is facing misdemeanor charges after he struck a man with his car, killing him, and left the scene with the help of a local sheriff.
As CrimeOnline perviously reported, Ravnsborg was driving on U.S. Highway 14 on his way home from a Republican fundraiser in September when he hit a man with his car. He said in a call to 911 that he but did not see what he had hit, and thought it might have been a deer.
Ravnsborg said in a statement that Hyde Count Sheriff Volek arrived at the scene that Saturday night and surveyed the area with the attorney general, failing to find what Ravnsborg had hit. The sheriff reportedly lent Ravnsborg his personal vehicle to drive home so that Ravnsborg wouldn’t have to wait for a tow truck. The next morning, according to his statement, Ranvsborg was driving to return the sheriff’s car, followed by his chief of staff, when he passed the scene and stopped to see if he could find the deer he had hit. But what he found was a human body.
The victim was 55-year-old Joe Boever, who had apparently returned on foot to his disabled truck after getting into a minor single-car accident earlier the day of the crash. It is unclear why Boever walked back to the scene, as he had previously made plans with his cousin to come back for his truck the next day. It is also unknown if he was killed instantly or if he died sometime overnight, and whether he may have survived his injuries if he had gotten help.
As the Argus Leader reports, the Hyde County State’s Attorney’s Office announced at a news conference Thursday that Ravnsborg will face only misdemeanor charges related to the fatal crash, meaning that he is not being held criminally responsible for Boever’s death. The charges–careless driving, operating a vehicle while using a mobile or electronic device, and a lane driving violation for driving outside of his lane–each carry a maximum $500 fine and 30 days in jail, Deputy Hyde County State’s Attorney Emily Sovell reportedly said at the news conference.
According to the Argus Leader report, Sovell and Seadle County State’s Attorney Michael Moore said at the press conference that the provable facts of the case do not rise to manslaughter or vehicular homicide charges.
“Recklessness is an extremely high burden for us to establish and in this case we don’t have it,” Moore said. “I don’t feel good about it but it’s the right decision.”
Ravnsborg has reportedly claimed that he did not drink any alcohol at the fundraising dinner, and a blood test did not find any alcohol — but it was administered 15 hours after the incident.
Boever’s cousin Nick Nemec told the Associated Press that he was “disappointed, but not surprised” at the decision not to bring criminal charges. As CrimeOnline reported, Boever’s family had previously criticized the investigation and predicted that Ravnsborg would face minimal penalties.
“Obviously when a person dies, we want to know what happened. But we’re limited by the investigation and by the facts,” Moore said on Thursday. “And we can’t compel someone to tell us. I mean, there’s just nowhere else to go.”
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