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'No facts' to support misuse claims against Gov. Kristi Noem in SD airplane probe, says investigator

In a press release on the afternoon of Oct. 25, the Division of Criminal Investigation announced there were “no facts to support a criminal prosecution under current law" in the investigation into whether Gov. Kristi Noem misused the state airplane during several out-of-state events.

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Kristi Noem address supporters while she makes her acceptance speech after being announced the new governor of South Dakota Tuesday, Nov. 6, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Sioux Falls. Noem mad history by being the first female governor of South Dakota.
Jason Harward / Forum News Service
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation has ended its investigation into potential misuse of the state airplane by Gov. Kristi Noem, coming to the conclusion that there were “no facts to support a criminal prosecution under current law.”

In a press release sent Tuesday, Oct. 25, Hughes County State’s Attorney Jessica LaMie wrote there is “no basis to pursue these matters further.”

LaMie was placed in charge of the probe after Noem-appointed Attorney General Mark Vargo recused himself from the investigation.

The original complaint alleging that Noem had misused the state airplane was filed to the Government Accountability Board by former Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. The accusations originally stemmed from a 2021 article in the online publication Raw Story.

The ethics board referred the complaint to Vargo on Sept. 9, 2022, asking that the Division of Criminal Investigation look into whether Noem had violated state law by attending certain out-of-state events using the state plane.

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"An independent prosecutor has confirmed what we have known all along. This was nothing but a political attack in retaliation from a disgraced attorney general who killed a man, lied about it and tried to cover it up," Ian Fury, the communications director for the Noem campaign, wrote in a statement. "Governor Noem did the right thing calling on him to resign and remained focused on her job. She is committed to continue to fight for the hard working people of South Dakota."

The airplane probe was one of two public ethics complaints faced by Noem during the lead-up to her attempt at a second term as governor. Both complaints now appear settled just two weeks before Election Day.

Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or jharward@forumcomm.com.

Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at jharward@forumcomm.com.
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