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South Dakota Attorney General facing 3 misdemeanors following investigation into fatal crash

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South Dakota Attorney Jason Ravnsborg

PIERRE, S.D. (KTIV) - South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has been charged with three misdemeanor charges for his role in a deadly accident that happened Sept. 12 in 2020.

Those charges include using a mobile device while operating a vehicle, a lane driving violation, and careless driving. According to authorities, those charges do not allege he was quote "criminally responsible" for the death of 55-year-old Joe Boever.

The charges were announced Thursday afternoon during a news conference.

KTIV App Users: Click here to watch the news conference on KTIV.com.

On Sept. 12 of last year, Ravnsborg was driving on Highway 12, west of Highmore when his vehicle struck a pedestrian, who was later identified as Boever. He told authorities he believed he struck a deer and didn't realize it was a person.

Authorities say the mobile device charge did not occur at the time of the accident, as Ravnsborg was not on his cell phone at the time of the accident. That occurred when he was driving east of Highway 12. The accident happened west of Highway 12.

Emily Sovell, an assistant state's attorney for Hyde County, said there was speculation whether a charge of manslaughter or vehicular homicide, would be filed in the case. She said for vehicular homicide in the state, it would require a person to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time.

She said toxicology reports show Ravnsborg wasn't under the influence.

"With respect into speculation into a manslaughter charge, I will explain to you in South Dakota SDCL 221620 states any reckless killing of one human being including a child by the act or the procurement of another which under the provisions of this chapter is neither murder nor manslaughter in the first degree nor excusable nor justifiable homicide is manslaughter in the second degree. that is a class 4 felony. There is a very specific articulation of what reckless means within the provisions of that manslaughter statute. The state must import a conscious and unconscious justifiable disregard of a substantial risk that the individual's conduct must cause a certain result or maybe of a certain nature. A person is reckless in circumstances when he consciously and unjustifiably disregards a substantial risk. Our high courts have explained for someone's conduct to be deemed reckless it's more than an ordinary standard. Operation of a motor vehicle by a law is not in itself sufficient to constitute the recklessness required for that manslaughter statute, even if that person is killed as a result thereof."

Emily Sovell, an assistant state's attorney for Hyde County, South Dakota.

Michael Moore, the state's attorney from Beadle County, who assisted in the case, said he spoke with victim Joe Boever's family this morning before the announcement was made.

"They obviously don't like our decision in the case. But as we obviously know, victims don't make that decision. That's why there is independent review. That's why there are prosecutors that are elected by the people. That's our job. We owe it not only to Joe Boever, but to the Attorney General Ravnsborg to do an unbiased, fair review of the facts and apply it to the law," said Moore.

Moore also said a vehicular homicide charge in the state must also show negligence on behalf of the accused. He said there is no law for negligent homicide in the state.

Blake Branch

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Dean Welte

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