Gov. Kristi Noem this week intensified pressure on the South Dakota Legislature to impeach a fellow Republican — state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg — over his handling of a 2020 car crash that killed a pedestrian.
“Jason Ravnsborg killed a man, lied to investigators about the events of that night, and attempted to cover it up,” Noem wrote Monday night in a statement on Twitter, adding that the family of the victim, Joseph Boever, “deserves justice.”
A GOP-controlled House committee voted along party lines to issue a 22-page report that found that Ravnsborg’s actions did not warrant impeachment, citing the state constitution, which declares most state officers “liable to impeachment for drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office.”
Noem, who is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, disagreed with the finding and urged the House to impeach Ravnsborg when it convenes in April.
“The question before this committee was, should the Attorney General should continue to be the top law enforcement officer in the state of South Dakota. It is clear that he should not be. My hope is that the House of Representatives as a whole will do the right thing,” she tweeted.
The House can still move forward with impeachment proceedings despite the panel’s vote this week.
Noem’s sharp words escalated what has become a very public fight between GOP officials and lawmakers after the fatal crash on a rural South Dakota highway in September 2020.
Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to the traffic misdemeanors linked to the incident, which he first reported as a collision with an animal. He said he didn’t realize he had hit a person until the next day, when he found Boever’s body.
Prosecutors said they were unable to substantiate Ravnsborg’s claim that he didn’t realize he had hit a man until a day after the incident. Ravnsborg, who has maintained that he should remain in office, faced fines but evaded jail time.
Noem had pressed the Legislature to launch an impeachment inquiry after Ravnsborg vowed he wouldn’t resign.
“I have seen the entire investigative file, and the public deserves to see it so that they can learn the truth of what happened. The House has the sole constitutional power of impeachment, and they have the responsibility to see this process through in a timely manner,” she said in a statement in January.
Noem’s pressure campaign has coincided with Ravnsborg’s advancing two ethics complaints against her to the state’s Government Accountability Board, with an April deadline for her to respond.
She came under fire in September after her daughter received unusual treatment to obtain a real estate license after having fallen short of federal requirements, according to an Associated Press report.
Ravnsborg signaled at the time that he would review the claims. “I am actively reviewing their concerns and I will be following the steps prescribed in codified law in relation to those questions,” he said in a statement.
NBC News has reached out to Noem and Ravnsborg for comment.
Noem renewed her impeachment attacks this month by firing off questions on Twitter about why Ravnsborg had a closed-door hearing with members of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations.
“REMINDER: the House is still in the middle of impeachment proceedings,” she wrote. “They don’t have time to conclude their impeachment process, but they have time for secret closed-door meetings to give Ravnsborg $1.5 million with no accountability?”
Noem went a step further Monday when she accused the House of trying to cover for Ravnsborg after the investigating committee decided against recommending impeachment, a major blow for Noem, Boever’s family and others who had rallied to remove him from office.
Rep. Jamie Smith, one of two Democrats who voted for Ravnsborg’s impeachment, said he was “disappointed” by the committee’s findings. “I voted to proceed with impeachment,” he wrote on Twitter. “The AG lied.”
The panel also rebuked Noem, accusing her of “attempting to pressure” House members. “Governor Noem has continued to improperly influence the impeachment process,” they wrote.