Text to Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg about man he hit said 'Well, at least the guy was a Democrat'

Joe Sneve
Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Special Agent Joe Arenz, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation said Jason Ravnsborg made a mistake in this interrogation video from 2020 when he said he saw a body in the ditch.

PIERRE — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is unfit to hold the office given his conduct related to a fatal crash in 2020, according to Public Safety Secretary Craig Price.

Price on Wednesday issued a formal letter urging a legislative committee vetting impeachment of the attorney general to consider all the facts before resolving its work this spring.

"The attorney general's actions through the investigation, the findings from our review of the crash events, along with the context provided by the pre- and post-crash behaviors draw the conclusion that he is unfit to hold the position as the chief law enforcement officer for the state of South Dakota," Price said in a letter sent to House Speaker Spencer Gosch, the Glenham Republican overseeing the House Select Committee on Investigation.

South Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Kevin Kinney, left, points to a diagram of the 2020 crash in which South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg struck and killed a man walking near a rural highway,  during a House impeachment investigative committee meeting in Pierre, S.D., on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. Lawmakers are weighing whether Ravnsborg should face impeachment charges. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves)

The letter attempts to walk Gosch through a series of facts revealed throughout the committee's monthslong process of determining whether Ravnsborg should be removed from office.

It also provided new information regarding correspondence between Ravnsborg and others in text messages that Price characterized as disparaging and out of character with the high standards expected of law enforcement officers.

The letter alleges that forensic investigators discovered text messages between Ravnsborg and members of his staff that were "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."

More:Prosecutors say they couldn't prove AG Jason Ravnsborg knew he'd struck human on night of crash

And less than 48 hours after the death of the crash victim, 55-year-old Joe Boever, Ravnsborg received a text message from someone identified in the letter as a political consultant that insensitively referred to Boever's political affiliations.

"Well, at least the guy was a Democrat," read the text message, according to Price's letter.

The investigation file Price refers to in the letter has never been made public.

Price and Gov. Kristi Noem have previously shared their opinion that Ravnsborg should've faced felony charges following the Sept. 12, 2020 crash. But prosecutors chose to charge him with three misdemeanor traffic violations instead, saying they were unable to prove that Ravnsborg left the crash scene with knowledge that he'd struck Boever.

Ravnsborg reported in the initial 911 call that he didn't know what he'd struck while driving near Highmore in the night time hours. Boever's body was not discovered until the following morning.

The House Select Committee on Investigation is set to meet next Thursday. 

A privately-paid spokesman for Ravnsborg did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.

Following receipt of the letter, Gosch told the Argus Leader he sees the move as the latest example of Noem and her administration "meddling" in the committee's work. And that a press release publicized Price's letter seeks to put political pressure on the committee, he said.

"We're having conversations right now about whether or not we can even proceed at this point," Gosch said while questioning whether the entire process has been tainted by the governor's involvement, which he characterized as "perverted."

The family of Joe Boever told the Argus Leader that while disturbing, the revelations about disparaging text messages does not come as a surprise. 

Nick Nemec, a cousin of Boever who serves a spokesperson for Boever's widow and mother, said in the days following the crash, the family received notification that Ravnsborg and his allies were attempting to cast Boever in a negative light. And in the lead up to the litigation stemming from the case, Ravnsborg's attorney prepared to argue that Boever suffered from mental health and addiction issues.

"So it doesn’t surprise me — the smart ass remarks about Joe Boever," Nemec said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.