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South Dakota Attorney General To Take No Contest Plea In Fatal Car Crash Case

The senior Republican politician was facing three misdemeanor charges in a rural crash that left the victim's body undiscovered for hours.

By Megan Carpentier
Jason Ravnsborg Pd

The sitting Republican attorney general of the state of South Dakota is expected to plead no contest to some of the charges he is facing in a 2020 car crash that resulted in the death of a pedestrian. 

Jason Ravnsborg, 45, was charged on Feb. 18, 2021 with three misdemeanor counts — operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, careless driving and a lane driving violation — related to the crash that killed Joseph Boever on Sept 12, 2020. He originally pleaded not guilty to all three on March 12.

Vanity Fair reported on Wednesday that he is expected to plead no contest to two of the three counts on Thursday to avoid trial.

On the day of the crash, Ravnsborg was driving two hours from Redfield, South Dakota to the state capital in Pierre. As he drove along state Highway 14 outside of Highmore, Joseph Boever, 55, was walking along the side of the same road. He had left his own car in a ditch earlier when it became disabled. 

At some point around 10:20 p.m., prosecutors allege that Ravnsborg unlocked his phone, opened his email, read a few headlines and re-locked it around 10:22. A minute later, he veered into the shoulder of the road and hit Boever.

He then called 911 to report hitting "something" in the "middle of the road." When the dispatcher suggested it might be a deer, the recording of the call reflects that he agreed.

Ravnsborg waited for the local law enforcement, Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek, to arrive; by the time he did so, shortly before 11:00 p.m., neither they nor the tow truck driver who came for Ravnsborg's disabled vehicle saw Boever's body where it had landed — two feet off the road and 60 feet behind where Ravnsborg's car had come to a halt —  nor found the deer Ravnsborg had supposedly hit. Volek drove Ravnsborg to his own house and loaned him a car to get to Pierre without conducting any sort of sobriety test.

Ravnsborg returned to Highmore the next day with a staffer to return Volek's car and reportedly decided to survey the scene of the crash. It was then that he discovered Boever's body and drove to Volek's house to inform him. At that point, 15 hours after the crash, no drugs or alcohol were found in Ravnsborg's system.

Ravnsborg has faced calls from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, R, to resign, as well an impeachment effort started by Republican members of the South Dakota legislature that was paused while his criminal case was ongoing. He is up for re-election in 2022.

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