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South Dakota politicians react to Ravnsborg's conviction, calling for restoration of trust

Since Tuesday's trial, his photo and biography have been removed from the South Dakota Attorney General's website.

Ravnsborg election photop.jpg
Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg addresses supporters after his election win in 2018. Ravnsborg was impeached April 12 and is awaiting a Senate trial that is set to begin June 21.
Photo Courtesy Sioux Falls Argus Leader
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PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem and the South Dakota Democratic Party published separate messages along similar lines Tuesday evening, pointing to the removal of Jason Ravnsborg as the Attorney General creating an opportunity to restore trust in the state’s highest law enforcement role.

Ravnsborg, who was paid $121,449.51 annually, was convicted Tuesday by the South Dakota Senate on two articles of impeachments that the state’s House of Representatives lodged against him in April. A second set of votes unanimously barred him from holding future office in the state.

The articles of impeachment stem from Ravnsborg’s roles and actions before, during and after a September 2020 crash, in which his vehicle struck and killed Joe Boever, a pedestrian walking alongside a highway at night.

After more than 21 months of investigations and political intrigue regarding the future of the office, Ravnsborg is no longer the state’s attorney general, something Noem said lifted a cloud that hung over the office.

“After nearly 2 years the dark cloud over the Attorney General's office has been lifted,” Noem said. “It is now time to move on and begin to restore confidence in the office.”

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Noem, a harsh critic of Ravnsborg’s conduct, had repeatedly emphasized that Ravnsborg should not hold office, first asking him to resign in February 2021 and — after his criminal conviction in August — later calling on the Legislature to begin impeachment proceedings.

Ravnsborg declined to resign.

The messaging from the Governor’s Office lined up well with the state’s Democratic Party, which said Ravnsborg’s continued service since his criminal conviction undermined the integrity of the office.

“The Senate did the right thing [Tuesday] by deciding to impeach Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. Throughout the process, Democrats have maintained that Ravnsborg violated the public’s trust in our government with his actions,” said Randy Seiler, chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party. “[Tuesday’s] decision to impeach and remove him from office is an important last step in holding him accountable.”

The Senate was tasked with voting to convict or acquit Ravnsborg on two separate articles of impeachment, for crimes committed in office and for malfeasance in office. 24 Senators voted to convict Ravnsborg of crimes in office, citing two Class 2 misdemeanors Ravnsborg was convicted of.

While legislators voted to convict Ravnsborg of crimes in office with the exact two-thirds majority required, a more overwhelming majority — 31 of 33 present Senators — voted to convict him of malfeasance in office, citing the repeated lies Ravnsborg told regarding the 2020 crash.

Since Tuesday's trial, his photo and biography have been removed from the South Dakota Attorney General's website.

Other coverage surrounding Jason Ravnsborg...
On Aug. 22, a state ethics board referred a complaint to the Division of Criminal Investigations for an investigation into whether Gov. Kristi Noem had misused the state airplane. Shortly thereafter, calls began coming in for Mark Vargo, the Noem-appointed interim attorney general, to recuse himself from the investigation. On Sept. 9, Vargo obliged.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021. After over a year in Mitchell, he moved to Milwaukee, where he now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on regional news that impacts the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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