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'traffic accident'

South Dakota House impeaches attorney general over deadly 2020 crash

The South Dakota House on Tuesday impeached state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) over a fatal 2020 crash in which he killed a man, Joseph Boever, while he walked alongside a highway. The historic vote, 36-31, removes Ravnsborg from office, at least until the conclusion of his Senate trial, which can't begin until May. Two-thirds of senators would have to vote to permanently remove him from office. 

South Dakota has never even tried to impeach an elected official, and its only impeachment inquiry was of a circuit judge in 2017, The Associated Press reports. "I believe impeachment should be reserved only for grave and exceptional circumstances, and I believe this is one," state Rep. Will Mortenson (R) told his colleagues in the House on Tuesday. 

"The House of Representatives voted and I respect the process," Ravnsborg said in a statement after the vote, "but I look forward to the Senate trial where I believe I will be vindicated." He pleaded no contest last year to two traffic misdemeanor charges from the crash, serving no jail time, and he argued against his impeachment in letters to lawmakers on Monday. 

"In a few hours, your vote will set a precedent for years to come," Ravnsborg wrote. "No state has ever impeached an elected official for a traffic accident." He argued that having killed a man with his car does not "impede my ability to perform the functions" of attorney general, and accused Gov. Kristi Noem (R) of using the "unfortunate circumstances of a man being killed in a traffic accident to make her political moves," backing his impeachment because of his investigation into her behavior

Ravnsborg "wants to make this about me, to distract House members, when the question before them is whether he should be the state's top law enforcement officer," Noem tweeted before the vote. "He killed an innocent man, lied about the events of that evening, and abused his office to cover it up."