An amended resolution to impeach South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg for striking and killing a pedestrian, Joe Boever, and his conduct following the incident in September passed unanimously in the House State Affairs committee on Wednesday morning.
House Resolution 7001 was amended by House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, to allow the impeachment proceedings to occur after a conviction, guilty plea, nolo contendere, or acquittal in the criminal case.
The amendment, 7001 F, does not guarantee an impeachment, rather, it says that the House of Representatives may evaluate whether impeachment is necessary after Ravnsborg’s trial concludes.
Gosch said the amendment was proposed following a gag order placed on Governor Kristi Noem, the Governor’s Office, or any state government member precluding them from releasing any further evidence involved in the criminal case.
“I feel that this strongly inhibits our ability to conduct a fair and transparent hearing, and for that reason I would ask that we adopt 7001 F,” Gosch told the committee.
Before the amendment was presented, the resolution’s prime sponsor Rep. Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, said he believed the legislature has an obligation to use its constitutional authority to consider the impeachment because the Attorney General is held to a higher duty to the state, its laws, and its people. He did not oppose the amendment.
“I would appreciate this committee’s support in establishing a fair and transparent process by which these proceedings may move forward,” Mortenson said.
After the amendment was adopted, Boever’s cousin, Nick Nemec, gave passionate testimony in favor of impeachment. He gave the committee a summary of Boever’s life, and brought a jade plant that Boever had propagated and given to Nemec’s wife. Nemec said Boever rescued house plants and would often give jade plants as gifts.
Nemec emphasized the different standard he felt the Attorney General was treated to in this situation. He said if the situation was reversed, the case would look very different.
“We all know working class, blue collar Joe Boever would be in either jail or prison. But that isn’t how life turned out,” Nemec said. “Prior to the announcement of three misdemeanor charges against Jason Ravnsborg, when people asked me what I thought would happen, I told them I thought Ravnsborg would be charged with crossing the white line. And guess what? That’s exactly what he got charged with.”
Nemec complained about the impeachment process so far and was not in favor of the amendment.
“Spare me the South Dakota government hypocrisy,” he said.
After Nemec’s speech, the committee unanimously voted to approve the amended resolution with no discussion.