Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg pleads not guilty in death of pedestrian

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation interviews South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg on September 30 about a crash that killed Joe Boever.

PIERRE — Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg pleaded not guilty to killing a pedestrian on Friday, six months to the day after authorities say he struck Joseph Boever, who was walking on the side of the highway, with his vehicle.

Ravnsborg was scheduled to make a first appearance, but his lawyer Tim Rensch, asked to move the hearing up to an arraignment, in which defendants enter a plea. 

“We might as well do that when we’re all here, your honor,” Rensch, who is from Rapid City, told Judge John Brown.

One person who wasn’t there was Ravnsborg. Because he is charged with class-2 misdemeanors, he was not required to attend.

He faces three misdemeanor charges of careless driving, driving outside of his lane and operating a vehicle while on a mobile device. Each carries a potential $500 fine and 30-day jail sentence.

Brown set a scheduling hearing for 60 days. At that time, the parties will review the amount of discovery in the case and determine a time for when a trial date could be set.

Rensch told Brown that it would take time to go through the materials collected during the investigation into the accident.

“In some cases, there’s a mountain of discovery,” he said. “In this case, there’s a mountain range of discovery.”

Rensch declined to comment on the case.

Friday’s hearing was attended by several of Boever’s relatives, including his widow, Jenny, his mother and siblings, Nick Nemec, Boever’s cousin, said. They were accompanied by Sioux Falls lawyer Scott Heidepriem, who is representing Boever’s family in a civil lawsuit. Heidepriem declined to comment.

Nemec called the not-guilty plea, “troubling.”

“They’ve got him dead to rights using his cellphone while driving,” he said. “He was obviously out of his lane. The skid marks on Highway 14 are still visible.” 

“I guess if he wants to pay an attorney to fight it, that’s his prerogative,” Nemec added. “I think he’s beating a dead horse on that deal.” 

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg's car is shown on Sept. 15, three days after a fatal crash in which Ravnsborg struck and killed pedestrian Joseph Boever, 55, of Highmore.

Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Sovell charged Ravnsborg with the three misdemeanors after a five-month investigation into the Sept. 12, 2020 crash. Sovell, along with Beadle County State’s Attorney Michael Moore and Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo, concluded that more serious charges of reckless driving were not warranted.

That decision upset the family members of Joseph Boever, 55, who died after Ravnsborg struck him while going nearly 70 mph. A more serious charge of reckless driving would have exposed  Ravnsborg to a felony manslaughter charge.

Source: USA Today – Breaking News

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