Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg ran down and killed a pedestrian on Sept. 12, 2020. This week, South Dakota Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price said Ravnsborg received a text message from an unnamed political consultant less than two days after the crash that commented on the political party of Joe Boever, the 55-year-old man that Ravnsborg, a first-term Republican, had killed.
“Well, at least the guy was a Democrat,” the message read.
Price, in a letter to Speaker of the South Dakota House of Representatives Spencer Gosch, said a study of text messages between the Attorney General and advisers and staff members reveal “disparaging and offensive statements regarding other law enforcement officers, judges, a Supreme Court justice, a legislator, prosecutors, staff members, a former attorney general, and a United States senator.”
Price posted the letter on Twitter Wednesday and also issued a press release, as Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration continues to apply pressure in an effort to remove the attorney general.
Ravnsborg has rarely spoken to reporters or the public about the fatal crash. He did have a private spokesman, Mike Deaver of Salt Lake City. It is unknown if Deaver was the political consultant who made the comment. He did not return a call or text message from The Daily Beast on Thursday.
Boever was a cousin to Nick Nemec, a Democrat and former state legislator who ran for the state Public Utilities Commission in 2012. Nemec, who has served as a family spokesman since the crash, said the comments about Boever were upsetting.
“You know that doesn’t surprise me,” Nemec told The Daily Beast. “It just rubs me the wrong way.”
He said Boever was a registered Democrat, but was not active in politics.
“He was just a voter,” Nemec said.
He said the Price letter had stirred up the Capitol. It’s the closing days of the session, but now the Attorney General investigation is once again on the front burner.
“Things are in turmoil around here,” he said.
Nemec said he was told there is an ongoing battle between “far-right Republicans, regular Republicans and Democrats. And there’s just turmoil in Pierre right now.”
Nemec, as a former legislator, is allowed to sit on the floor of the legislature. He has done so at times during this process, but said on Thursday, Speaker Gosch told state Rep. Jamie Smith, a Sioux Falls Democrat who is running against Noem, to tell Nemec his floor privileges had been revoked.
Price works for Noem, who like Ravnsborg, is a Republican. Noem has repeatedly called on the Attorney General to resign and has urged the legislature to impeach him. Price said in the letter that Ravnsborg is “unfit to hold the position.”
Gosch, however, seemed more disturbed by the three-page letter from Price than the revelations contained in it.
He told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that legislators resented Noem “meddling” in the investigation and questioned the future of the impeachment proceedings.
“We’re having conversations right now about whether or not we can even proceed at this point,” Gosch said.
Price’s letter was packed with startling revelations about Ravnsborg, including noting he had a history of speeding and often used his status as the state’s top law enforcement official to avoid repercussions. It said he had been stopped eight times without receiving a ticket, and on five occasions, Ravnsborg identified himself as the Attorney General either verbally or by displaying a badge. Before he took office, he had at least eight traffic tickets, six of them for speeding.
He used the same technique after striking and killing Boever on U.S. Highway 14 just west of Highmore in September 2020. When he called 911, the first thing Ravnsborg did was identify himself as the Attorney General.
“Ally? This, well, Ally, I’m the Attorney General,” he said. “And I am, I don’t know. I hit something.”
Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek, who lived nearby, responded. He didn’t check to see if Ravnsborg had been drinking, nor did he locate what or who he had struck. Volek never spoke to reporters about the crash; he died in November while visiting a friend in North Carolina.
After the crash, Volek provided his personal car to the Attorney General, who then drove home to Pierre, the state capital, about an hour away. The next morning, Ravnsborg returned the car, driving in tandem with his chief of staff, and discovered Boever’s body on the side of the road.
At least, that is his story. North Dakota investigators who were brought in to work the crash scene told legislators in January they believe Ravnsborg knew he had hit and killed a man.
During an interrogation on Sept. 30, investigators noted Boever’s glasses were found inside Ravnsborg’s 2011 Ford Taurus.
“That means his face came through your windshield,” said a North Dakota Bureau of Investigation agent, one of two who questioned Ravnsborg for more than three hours in a pair of sessions.
“His face is in your windshield,” the agent said as Ravnsborg groaned. “Think about it.”
The two North Dakota agents told the special legislative committee chaired by Gosch that they strongly believe Ravnsborg knew he had hit and killed Boever. They said cell phone data indicates he had walked past the body, and also noted a flashlight Boever was carrying was still turned on, sending a “beacon” into the night.
Price reiterated that in his letter. He also questioned why legislators have been so concerned about the release of information on the case. Noem released videos of Ravnsborg speaking to the North Dakota investigators last year, only to have the judge in the criminal case order then taken down from a state website. Copies remain online.
“Some members of the committee appear more interested in discovering why information was provided to the public as opposed to the facts of the investigation,” Price said.
Ravnsborg never spent a second in jail for hitting and killing a pedestrian. In fact, he never even appeared in court, taking a plea deal on a pair of misdemeanors and paying $1,000 in fines and court costs. A third charge was dismissed.
The South Dakota Democratic Party issued a statement to The Daily Beast condemning the text message.
“The language and sentiment expressed in this text message to Attorney General Ravnsborg is disrespectful and wrong,” said South Dakota Democratic Party Chair Randy Seiler. “To bring partisan politics into a tragedy like this is unacceptable. Our leaders should serve with honesty and integrity, and Secretary Price’s letter makes clear that Jason Ravnsborg is unfit to serve the people of South Dakota as Attorney General.”
Noem also expressed outrage over a closed-door meeting legislators held with Ravnsborg on Wednesday.
“Yesterday, Attorney General Ravnsborg was granted an unprecedented closed-door meeting with legislative appropriators,” she said on Twitter Thursday morning. “Now, they are suddenly giving him an extra $1.5 million without any public hearing. REMINDER: the House is still in the middle of impeachment proceedings.
“No other constitutional officer… no other state agency or department… nobody else got a similar closed-door discussion in the final days of session,” Noem said. “These meetings are supposed to be public and transparent for a reason.
“Let me get this straight… they don’t have time to conclude their impeachment process, but they have time for secret closed-door meetings to give Ravnsborg $1.5 million with no accountability?”