PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Thursday ratcheted up pressure on the state’s attorney general to resign as she promised to release more documents on his fatal crash and enlisted a senior cabinet member to join the chorus calling for his removal from office.
Jason Ravnsborg struck and killed a man walking on the shoulder of a rural highway on Sept. 12. He says he thought he had hit a deer until he returned to the accident scene the next day and found the body.
Speaking at a news conference Thursday, the Republican governor said she decided to call for the resignation of Ravnsborg — the state’s top law enforcement officer — after taking a day to review the investigation, including videos of his interviews with law enforcement. She promised more information from the investigation would be released Thursday or Friday, adding that her administration had received permission from the victim’s family to release the documents and video of Ravnsborg’s interviews.
Ravnsborg, also a Republican, has indicated he will not step down and insists he can continue performing the duties of his office despite facing three misdemeanor charges and impeachment in the Legislature.
But Craig Price, Noem’s secretary of public safety, pushed for Ravnsborg’s impeachment. Joining Noem at the news conference, Price said “maintaining public trust is critical” for law enforcement officers, referencing his 20-year career as a police officer that culminated with overseeing the state’s Highway Patrol.
Noem said she spent 10 hours going through details of the crash investigation on Monday, a day before she called for him to step down.
“I had not seen anything prior to that, but that is one of the reasons that we moved forward on Tuesday and why I put forward my personal opinion that he should resign,” she said.
The governor said she had not communicated directly with Ravnsborg since the accident.
Noem also made the extraordinary move of releasing videos of Ravnsborg’s interviews with detectives investigating the crash that occurred as he was driving home from a Republican fundraiser. In the interviews, Ravnsborg appears unsure of how his Ford Taurus veered onto the highway shoulder, where it struck 55-year-old Joseph Boever. Though he initially told investigators he didn’t use his cellphone while driving that night, he admitted that he had been checking email and news websites after investigators confronted him with his phone records.
Prosecutors have charged him with a misdemeanor for using his phone while driving, though his phone records show the device was locked about a minute before the crash.
Meanwhile, lawmakers readied to move forward with impeachment proceedings next week. House Speaker Spencer Gosch has proposed forming a special committee to investigate Ravnsborg’s conduct in the fatal crash.