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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Former Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg stuck to his story that he never saw Joe Boever on that fatal night in September 2020 after he addressed the South Dakota Supreme Court during a disciplinary matter regarding his law license in the state.

The justices heard arguments Wednesday to determine whether Ravnsborg, who is the first public official to be impeached in South Dakota, should temporarily lose his law license. You can watch the nearly hour long arguments in the player above. KELOLAND News will have more coverage from Pierre throughout the day online and on-air.

The Disciplinary Board of the South Dakota State Bar filed recommendations to the Supreme Court against Ravnsborg on May 19, 2023, stating Ravnsborg should get his law license suspended for a little over two years. The complaint was filed by Alexis Tracy who served as an attorney against Ravnsborg during his Senate impeachment trial.

Ravnsborg was impeached in 2022 for his involvement in a deadly crash. More than a year earlier, he hit Joe Boever while driving near Highmore. Ravnsborg told investigators he thought he hit a deer. Boever’s body was discovered in the ditch the next morning.

KELOLAND’s Dan Santella asked Ravnsborg after the hearing how he never saw Boever the night of the crash. 

“I never saw him,” Ravnsborg said, while declining to answer further questions.

Jason Ravnsborg disciplinary hearing before South Dakota Supreme Court

Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Jensen and justices Janine Kern, Mark Salter, Patricia DeVaney and Scott Myren heard arguments from Ravnsborg’s attorney Michael Butler and Ravnsborg himself, while Thomas Frieberg spoke for the disciplinary board. 

While speaking to members of the state’s highest court, Ravnsborg apologized to the Boever family. 

“I didn’t ask for this accident,” Ravnsborg said. “I took responsibility for the accident. I tried to conduct myself in a professional manner.”

Ravnsborg said it’s been 1,251 days since the crash. 

“I count every day on my calendar and I say a prayer every day for him and myself and all the members of the family and all the people that it’s affected,” Ravnsborg said. “I’m very sorry for that.”

Justice Kern asked him about criticism of his candor with North Dakota investigators.  

Ravnsborg said he strongly disagrees with the investigators findings and stressed impeachment is a political matter. He said the North Dakota investigators were allowed to lie to him while questioning him about the location of his car on the road.

“I still know that I went to the right after impact and that is not in their findings,” Ravnsborg said. “They questioned me extensively about my cell phone usage and I was just adamant that I was not on my cell phone at the time.”

Ravnsborg said he has rights as a citizen to defend himself in all the various processes against him.

“While perception is very important to the legal profession, reality is even more important,” Ravnsborg said. “There’s been many things said about me that were false.”

Chief Justice Jensen asked if Ravnsborg ever considered taking a leave in the absence of his position of attorney general while there was an ongoing death investigation. 

“Based on the facts we knew at the time, no we didn’t think it affected the job,” Ravnsborg said.

Ravnsborg said the governor could appoint someone to the attorney general position if he stepped down and he had concerns with the governor’s office at the time. He said if he stepped down from his position, he’d be hampered.

“It was not as clear cut as taking a leave of absence or not,” Ravnsborg said. “I believe this manner should be dismissed.”

Before Ravnsborg spoke to justices, Frieberg stressed how difficult the Ravnsborg case has been for the state bar’s disciplinary board because of the extra attention with the case. He said the board focused on Ravnsborg’s actions after the crash, not the crash or the cause of the crash.  

Frieberg said people in public office have higher standards than those lawyers outside of public office. Frieberg said there were other ways for Ravnsborg to handle identifying himself when working with 911 dispatchers or law enforcement. 

“The board really felt this was a lack of awareness of Mr. Ravnsborg’s part, that he could have simply said I’m a state employee,” Frieberg said. “I don’t think any of you would introduce yourself to law enforcement at a stop saying ‘I’m a Supreme Court Justice.’ You would just tell them your name and go forward.”

Frieberg said the board reviewed the testimony from North Dakota agents from Ravnsborg’s Senate impeachment trial. Frieberg said an example of Ravnsborg’s misconduct was in regards to the location of his car during the crash. 

“They were adamant in their position that he was lacking candor and honesty in some respects,” Frieber said.

Frieberg said there was good precedent set with a fatal crash involving former Governor Bill Janklow and when Janklow lost his law license for 26 months.

In defending Ravnsborg, Butler asked for more specific details when regarding Ravnsborg’s complaint to the board. He pointed out the complaint came from the two lawyers involved in the Senate impeachment trial. 

“This case is not Janklow,” Butler said.

Butler pointed out Ravnsborg pled no contest to two misdemeanor charges in the criminal case, while Janklow admitted guilt to a serious crime. 

Justice Jensen asked about his role and the public’s perception of Ravnsborg’s role as the attorney general, serving the public, while an investigation played out. 

“There’s no evidence of Ravnsborg engaged in improper conduct other than remaining in office,” Butler said.

Butler said the board considered the testimony of North Dakota agents at the impeachment proceedings, but never had those North Dakota agents appear in front of the disciplinary board or the referee. 

“The officer acknowledged that his opinions were never reported, except for the first time in front of the impeachment board,” Butler said.

Butler said Ravnsborg showed remorse to the family twice in writing and his actions.

Documents filed with the Supreme Court say Ravnsborg violated rule 8.4 of the “Rules of Professional Conduct” during his time as attorney general. Those violations include telling officers who stopped him for traffic offenses that he was the attorney general. Secondly, the board says Ravnsborg failed to accept responsibility for his conduct in killing Boever and the “detrimental impact it had on the legal profession.” Finally, the board says Ravnsborg was more concerned about the impact on his political and military careers than he was about the victim.





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