South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who was slated to go on trial Thursday for striking and killing a man with his car almost a year ago, has pleaded to misdemeanor charges and will reportedly avoid any jail time.
Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors in February after he hit a man named Joe Boever, who'd been walking on the side of a highway, while driving home at night from a Republican fundraiser. Ravnsborg left the scene, later claiming he thought he'd struck a deer, and only returned the next day to find his victim's body.
The state Highway Patrol, however, found Boever's glasses inside Ravnsborg's badly damaged vehicle. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who called on Ravnsborg to resign soon after he was charged, ordered the release of videos of two police interviews with the attorney general in which an investigator said, "His face was in your windshield, Jason. Think about that." (The judge overseeing the case quickly ordered the videos to be taken down and no further investigative materials to be shared.)
Prosecutors said that Ravnsborg could not be charged with vehicular homicide because state law requires a driver to be intoxicated; Ravnsborg said he had not been drinking but was not given a sobriety test that night, only a blood test 15 hours later that showed no alcohol in his system. The three misdemeanor charges carried a possible sentence of 30 days and a $500 fine each, but according to journalist Tom Kludt, Ravnsborg's plea agreement means he won't spend any time incarcerated.
Republican legislators began impeachment proceedings soon after Ravnsborg was charged but soon thereafter voted to put them on hold while waiting for his criminal case to conclude. It's unclear whether there's an appetite to resume them, though one lawmaker says he'd like to renew the effort, which would require convening a special session of the legislature. In addition, Ravnsborg faces a wrongful death lawsuit by Boever's family and an intra-party challenge from his predecessor, Marty Jackley, who left office due to term limits in 2018. That contest would not be decided in a primary but instead by Republican delegates at a state party convention.