July 18, 2024


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South Dakota Senate convicts Ravnsborg, stripping title of Attorney General, barring him from holding office – Mitchell Republic

6 min read

PIERRE — Jason Ravnsborg is no lengthier South Dakota’s Lawyer Common.

The selection came Tuesday evening right after the South Dakota Senate voted 24-9 (with two excused) to convict Ravnsborg on article content of impeachment for crimes dedicated in office environment.

A 2nd vote on a separate write-up, alleging malfeasance dedicated in business, handed the Senate by a considerably greater majority with a 31-2 vote.

Beyond staying stripped of his job, lawmakers manufactured their feelings acknowledged, voting unanimously two times to disqualify Ravnsborg from ever keeping an place of work of belief in the state all over again.

What was originally supposed to be a two-working day demo, Ravnsborg appeared before the Senate represented by protection lawyers Mike Butler and Ross Garber.

Inspite of hours of testimony from witnesses termed to the stand by the prosecution, Ravnsborg’s counsel elected not to simply call any witnesses to the stand, forfeiting the wide vast majority of the 4 hrs granted for examination of witnesses.

The elimination of Ravnsborg will open up the door for Gov. Kristi Noem to appoint a replacement until the subsequent legal professional general is sworn in in January 2023.

Over the program of a trial long lasting 10 hours and 7 minutes, the prosecution relied greatly on testimony from 5 witnesses, which include North Dakota Bureau of Prison Investigation (NDBCI) and South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) agents as well as South Dakota Freeway Patrol (SDHP) troopers.

Prosecutor Mark Vargo initially called Kevin Kinney, an SDHP sergeant and a crash reconstructionist, to the stand to kick off testimony with the details of the crash.

When he very first responded to the scene of the crash on Sept. 14, 2020, Kinney was in cost of troopers who were collecting proof from the website that he’d finally switch into a map of the crash.

“There was one piece of debris uncovered in the lane of travel, which was observed to the south of the white fog line, two inches into the lane of journey. Each and every other piece of evidence was absolutely on the shoulder or in the ditch,” Kinney mentioned. “I have an exceptionally high level of self esteem that what we have is very accurate. … I am 100% self-confident [Ravnsborg] was driving down shoulder of the street.”


South Dakota Freeway Patrol sergeant Kevin Kinney testifies through the impeachment demo of Jason Ravnsborg at the South Dakota Condition Capitol in Pierre on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Inspite of Kinney’s certainty, in recorded interviews with NDBCI brokers Arnie Rummel and Joe Arenz, which had been played for Senators, Ravnsborg adamantly denied ever driving on the shoulder.

Just after applying his opening argument to tout Ravnsborg’s cooperation with law enforcement, Butler drilled Arenz on why he available Ravnsborg the opportunity to take a polygraph test, only to never in fact conduct the test.

Arenz stated discussions amongst him and other polygraphers led him to believe the final results may well demonstrate Ravnsborg was becoming misleading even if he was telling the truth. He agreed with the prosecution that it would be disingenuous to post Ravnsborg to a examination that may possibly return with invalid benefits, rather opting to focus on Ravnsborg’s statements that contrasted with evidence.

“We retrieved details [from Ravnsborg’s phone] that confirmed world-wide-web utilization, email, phone logs and text logs while traveling. Jason Ravnsborg explained to us his only mobile phone use was to call his father,” Arenz reported. “But the pinged details confirmed email usage and studying websites. We asked him about that and he initially managed that he only built calls, but he later on acknowledged he may well have checked emails. He was only keen to accept a little something at the time he understood we had the data.”


North Dakota Bureau of Prison Investigation agent Joe Arenz testifies for the duration of the Ravnsborg impeachment trial at the South Dakota Condition Capitol in Pierre on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

In a closing argument, Vargo famous that the testimony proved Ravnsborg experienced habitually lied to a wide variety of officials about the occasions leading up to and adhering to the crash.

“The strategy that someway he’s prevented by ND from having the polygraph is about as honest as the rest of the story he’s advised you. He lies about wherever is in the lane. Mr. Butler has numerous moments acknowledged that he knows he wasn’t in the lane of website traffic,” Vargo explained, noting he also claimed he was in the lane of targeted visitors in a letter to the Residence of Reps. “He did not just lie to 911, he did not just lie to regulation enforcement, he lied to the Property the night time before they met for impeachment.”

Ravnsborg lobbied an agent trying to find an gain

In advance of he retired, DCI agent Brent Gromer experienced an not comfortable non-public discussion with Ravnsborg, he testified.

Just hours following Ravnsborg submitted his cellular phone to NDBCI brokers for a forensic research of the device’s exercise logs, Gromer reported Ravnsborg, inspite of under no circumstances talking to Gromer right before, approached him in Pierre to check with for information and facts with regards to the research.

“[Ravnsborg wanted to ask about evidence that could be recovered. There was no pretense,” Gromer said. “He asked about the info that could be recovered to a cell phone, and referred to his own phone.”

According to Gromer, Ravnsborg questioned if a certain app would make it look like he was using his phone when he wasn’t and inquired about if it could access his flashlight usage.

Gromer testified that the conversation made him uncomfortable, as he had never before been approached by a suspect in a then-criminal investigation to answer questions regarding the collection of evidence.


Alexis Tracy gives her opening argument during the impeachment trial of Jason Ravnsborg at the South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

“Have you ever given a criminal defendant advice?” prosecutor Alexis Tracy asked?

“Not outside a criminal trial,” Gromer responded.

“Would you have had that conversation if it wasn’t the attorney general?” Tracy followed up.

“No, I would not,” Gromer said firmly.

Defense struggled to answer lawmakers’ questions

After all testimony was through, and before both sides gave their closing arguments, senators were given the opportunity to ask questions to either the prosecution or defense, as well as witnesses — leading the defense to mince their words carefully.

Sen. Herman Otten, R-Lennox, asked Butler whether Ravnsborg attended Lincoln Day Dinners — a political event in which Ravnsborg was returning home from at the time of the crash — as the attorney general or as a regular citizen.

“I’m not sure how to answer that question. Obviously he’s the attorney general,” Butler said. “He was not performing the official functions of the attorney general by attending a political event, and I don’t think there’s any support in the constitution.”

Seeing an opportunity to further their case, the prosecution jumped in, too.


Mike Butler gives his testimony during Jason Ravnsborg’s impeachment trial at the South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

“We would refer senators to Ravnsborg’s own statements that he is ‘always on duty.’ The malfeasance that comes afterwards, he certainly is acting as the attorney general,” Tracy said.

When further probed if Ravnsborg’s use of his work phone while returning from the Lincoln Day Dinner constituted him acting as the attorney general, Butler denied the claim, calling his phone use an “innocent act.”

A removal, barring memorialized in history

Following the final votes that removed Ravnsborg from office and barred him from holding statewide office in the future, the Senate moved to memorialize Tuesday’s events in the legislative history books, passing a resolution to certify and ratify the proceedings.

Ravnsborg and his legal team avoided a swathe of reporters seeking comment.


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