South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) was charged on Thursday with three misdemeanors for hitting and killing a man with his car last September.
The victim was 55-year-old Joseph Boever. Ravnsborg was charged with careless driving, driving out of his lane, and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone. He faces up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 for each charge. Hyde County Deputy State's Attorney Emily Sovell said Ravnsborg was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and to charge him with manslaughter, the state would have had to show he "consciously and unjustifiably" disregarded a substantial risk, The Associated Press reports. "At best, his conduct was negligent, which is insufficient to bring criminal charges in South Dakota," Beadle County State's Attorney Michael Moore said.
The incident occurred near Highmore on the night of Sept. 12, as Ravnsborg drove home to Pierre from a Republican fundraiser. He initially told law enforcement he thought he hit a large animal, and didn't know he struck a person until he returned to the scene the next day. Investigators said Ravnsborg was distracted and drove into the shoulder of the highway, where Boever was walking.
Relatives and friends of Boever are upset that Ravnsborg was able to avoid more serious felony charges, and question why it took so long to finally charge him. "I was afraid the charge would be something on the order of crossing the white line," Nick Nemec, Boever's cousin, told AP. "And that's exactly what the charge was." In a statement, Ravnsborg said he can't imagine the "pain and loss" Boever's family is feeling, and appreciates "that the presumption of innocence placed within our legal system continues to work."