AP

South Dakota senators silent on AG impeachment vote

Jun 16, 2022, 9:32 AM | Updated: 9:45 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — State senators are staying silent on how they will vote in South Dakota’s first-ever impeachment trial next week, as they weigh whether to remove Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg for his conduct surrounding a 2020 fatal car crash.

The Associated Press asked each of the 35 members of the Republican-controlled Senate whether they had made a decision on the two impeachment charges that will be argued starting Tuesday. None of the 20 who responded said they had reached a decision. Most likened themselves to jurors or judges who must give a fair hearing in an ordeal that has fractured the state’s Republican Party and galvanized public opinion.

“Everybody’s keeping an objective mind and going into it with their eyes wide open,” said Republican Sen. Erin Tobin.

It will take 24 senators, or two-thirds, to convict Ravnsborg, a first-term Republican who isn’t seeking reelection, on either of two articles of impeachment: committing crimes that caused the death of pedestrian Joseph Boever and malfeasance afterward.

The circumstances surrounding the two-day trial may have already tipped some senators as they review crash investigation files and material from the House impeachment investigation. Ravnsborg’s defense hasn’t submitted any documents, so everything they have looked at likely works in the prosecution’s favor.

“It would be hard for anyone to look at that information and not come to a conclusion,” said Republican Sen. Michael Rohl. “We haven’t seen a defense.”

Rohl said he hasn’t made up his mind. Most of his questions are for Ravnsborg, who has not said whether he will testify.

Other senators have had less time to do their homework on the crash investigation. Republican Sen. Ryan Maher said he is already “agitated” because he will have to take a two-day break from running a new business to spend long hours in a Senate chamber likely baking in the summer heat. Lawmakers usually meet during the winter months, making air conditioning or cooling ventilation unnecessary.

“It’s going to be hot and we’re just going to sit there and sweat,” Maher said.

He said he did not know how he would vote, but said if Ravnsborg is convicted, he would probably vote to bar him from holding any future state office “just because he’s wasting my time now when he should have resigned.”

Other senators said they were looking forward to a trial as a public reckoning over crash details that have emerged in fits and starts in the 21 months since Ravnsborg struck Boever as he drove home from a Republican gathering.

Ravnsborg has said he did not know he killed a man until he returned to the crash site the next day and discovered Boever’s body. He initially told a 911 dispatcher he was in the middle of the road and hit “something.” He later said he thought he hit a deer or other animal and has insisted that neither he nor a sheriff who came to the scene could find what was hit in the dark. Investigators said they doubted some of Ravnsborg’s statements.

“I am going to try and understand what really happened,” Republican Sen. Arthur Rusch said in an email. “How did he get on the shoulder — how did he not see Mr. Boever — how did he not see his face in his windshield. How did neither the AG or the sheriff see the body when they walked right by it.”

During the House impeachment investigation, Ravnsborg’s defense centered on the constitutional grounds for impeachment and whether the two traffic misdemeanors, to which he pleaded no contest last year, were any reason to impeach him. He has also charged that Gov. Kristi Noem “politically weaponized” the crash to drive him from office.

Noem pressed the impeachment process along. After her administration argued for his removal, impeachment squeaked out of the House by a single vote. In the Senate, where it would require a two-thirds majority to convict Ravnsborg, lawmakers have usually been on the same page with the governor.

The political realities will certainly bear on senators’ minds, said Jon Schaff, a political science professor at Northern State University.

“One would have to be naive to conclude that there’s not at least some political element going on,” he said. “What do constituents think and what does the governor think?”

Republican Sen. V.J. Smith said he has been careful not to comment on the trial out of fairness, even as dozens of people in his community have asked him about it. But he said he’s reminded of Boever’s death every time he passes the spot where he died on U.S. Highway 14.

“It never really leaves you,” he said. “We’re all looking for closure of a tragic situation.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Most Americans are sleepy new Gallup poll finds...

Associated Press

Most Americans say they don’t get enough sleep, according to new Gallup poll

A new Gallup poll found that most Americans are sleepy — or, at least, they say they are. Multiple factors play into this.

22 hours ago

Near-total abortion ban in Arizona dates back to Civil War era...

Associated Press

Near-total abortion ban dates back to 1864, during the Civil War, before Arizona was a state

The near-total abortion ban resurrected last week by the Arizona Supreme Court dates to 1864, when settlers were encroaching on tribal lands.

23 hours ago

Tracy Toulou...

Associated Press

How to tackle crime in Indian Country? Empower tribal justice, ex-Justice Department official says

A recently retired director of the Justice Dept. says the federal government hasn't given tribal justice systems equal recognition.

2 days ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson...

Associated Press

House Speaker Mike Johnson says he will push for aid to Israel and Ukraine this week

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to advance wartime aid for Israel this week, along with funding for Ukraine.

2 days ago

President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally Saturday, March 9, 2024, at Pullman Yards in Atlanta...

Associated Press

US shoots down ‘nearly all’ Iran-launched attack drones as Biden vows support for Israel’s defense

Joe Biden cut short a weekend stay at his beach house to meet with his national security team as Iran launched an attack against Israel.

3 days ago

Protesters in Phoenix shout as they join thousands marching around the Arizona state Capitol after ...

Associated Press

Abortion ruling supercharges Arizona to be an especially important swing state

A ruling this week instituting a near-total abortion ban supercharged Arizona's role, turning it into the most critical battleground.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

South Dakota senators silent on AG impeachment vote