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South Dakota attorney general convicted on impeachment charges, removed from office, over fatal traffic accident

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(PIERRE, S.D.) — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has been convicted in impeachment charges and removed from office over the aftermath following a fatal car crash in 2020 he was involved in.

Ravnsborg, 46, faced the state’s first impeachment trial for his conduct surrounding the traffic accident, in which he struck and killed a pedestrian with his 2011 Ford Taurus. After he was convicted by the state senate of two impeachment charges — committing a crime that caused someone’s death and a malfeasance charge alleging he misled investigators and misused his office — Ravnsborg was removed from office and barred from holding future office.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem supported lawmakers’ push to impeach Ravnsborg and will choose his replacement.

On Sept. 12, 2020, Ravnsborg was driving west on U.S. Highway 14, about a mile west of Highmore, South Dakota, when he hit and killed the 55-year-old victim, Joseph Boever, while on the way home from a dinner party, according to police.

Ravnsborg initially thought he hit a deer but discovered Boever’s body when he returned to the scene the next day, he told authorities. He disclosed to investigators that he called 911 and searched a ditch with police using a cellphone flashlight looking for a deer around 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 12.

In February 2021, Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanor counts related to the accident, including operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile device, a lane driving violation and careless driving. The accident did not meet the conditions for manslaughter, authorities said at the time.

An investigation completed one month after the crash initially determined that Ravnsborg was distracted when he struck Boever. But in February 2021, Beadle County State’s Attorney Michael Moore said that at the time of impact, Ravnsborg was not a distracted driver, adding that investigators analyzed Ravnsborg’s two cellphones, which were locked about 1 minute and 15 seconds prior to impact.

Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to a pair of misdemeanor traffic charges related to the crash last August and was not sentenced to any prison time.

After rejecting several calls for his resignation from state lawmakers, including Noem, a fellow Republican, in April, the South Dakota House of Representatives voted 36-31 to impeach Ravnsborg and charge him with committing crimes that caused someone’s death, making “numerous misrepresentations” to law enforcement officers after the crash, and abusing the power of his office to navigate the criminal investigation by using official letterhead for a statement on the incident and later questioning an investigator about what the authorities could find on his cellphone, according to the articles of impeachment.

Ravnsborg was temporarily removed from office pending the impeachment trial in the South Dakota state Senate.

“The House of Representatives voted, and I respect the process, but I look forward to the Senate trial, where I believe I will be vindicated,” Ravnsborg said in a statement after the impeachment vote.

ABC News could not immediately reach an attorney for Ravnsborg for comment.

ABC News’ Meredith Deliso and Ivan Pereira contributed to this report.

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