South Dakota attorney general Jason Ravnsborg (left) being questioned by investigators. (South Dakota Department of Public Safety)
South Dakota’s attorney general — who said he hit a deer after fatally striking a pedestrian last year — allegedly had the victim’s glasses inside his car, according to newly-released interviews.
The state’s Department of Public Safety on Tuesday released recordings of investigators questioning Jason Ravnsborg about the Sept. 12 crash that left 55-year-old Joseph Boever dead.
The footage shows how, during a Sept. 14 interview, detectives told Ravnsborg that they had discovered a pair of broken glasses on the front passenger floorboard of his vehicle.
During a second sit-down on Sept. 30, interviewers asked about the glasses again, telling Ravnsborg that they had belonged to the victim.
“They’re Joe’s glasses,” an agent says, referring to Boever. “So that means his face came through your windshield.”
Upon hearing that, Ravnsborg looked down and sighed deeply, before shaking his head, the footage shows.
“I did not see those glasses until you showed them to me,” he said.
The agent told Ravnsborg that “the only way for them to get there is through the windshield.”
“His face was in your windshield, Jason. Think about that.”
Ravnsborg maintained that he hadn’t seen the glasses until investigators showed them to him — and that he truly didn’t realize he’d hit a person at the time of the crash.
“I did not see him. I did not see anything,” Ravnsborg insisted. “I did not know it was a human until the next day.”
An investigator replied that: “You think you had an idea it was something other than a deer, though?”
“I just believed it was a deer.” Ravnsborg replied. “I do.”
COUSIN OF SOUTH DAKOTA MAN KILLED IN CRASH INVOLVING STATE AG SEEKING ANSWERS, JUSTICE
After the crash, Ravnsborg told authorities that he thought he had plowed his 2011 Ford Taurus into a deer or another large animal as he drove on US Highway 14 at about 10:30 p.m.
He was on his way home from a GOP fundraiser at Rooster’s Bar and Grill, where attendees were offered the chance to win a handgun engraved with then-President Trump’s name, according to the South Dakota GOP’s website.
The 44-year-old Republican was charged in the incident last week and faces three counts of careless driving, operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device and veering out of his lane.
Authorities said the evidence didn’t support more serious felony raps, and that Ravnsborg was not intoxicated at the time of the incident.
Ravnsborg, who was elected to his first term in 2018, was distracted when he swerved into Boever, who was walking on the highway’s shoulder, according to crash investigators.
South Dakota House lawmakers began impeachment proceedings against Ravnsborg on Tuesday, following the release of the interviews and other investigative materials.
Lawmakers argued in the impeachment resolution that Ravnsborg should be removed from office for “his crimes or misdemeanors in office causing the death” of Boever.
Gov. Kristi Noem, also a Republican, called for Ravnsborg to resign shortly before the impeachment resolution was filed.
“Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the Attorney General should resign,” she tweeted. “I have reviewed the material we are releasing, starting today, and I encourage others to review it as well.”
But Ravnsborg’s will not be stepping down, according to his spokesman Mike Deaver.
“As an attorney and a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserves, AG Ravnsborg has fought for the rule of law and personal liberties and would hope that he is afforded the same right and courtesy,” Deaver said in a statement.
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