South Dakota‘s attorney general will have to pay less than $5,000 in fines but was spared jail for running over and killing a pedestrian he says he thought was a deer, a judge ruled Thursday.
Jason Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor traffic charges of using a mobile phone while driving and failing to stay in his lane the night he killed Joseph Boever, 55, last September.
The attorney general was not present during sentencing, frustrating the Boever’s family.
‘Why, after having to wait nearly a year, do we not have the chance to face him?’ Jane Boever, the victim’s sister, told the judge. ‘His cowardly behavior leaves us frustrated.’
On top of his $500 fines, the attorney general must participate in an annual public service event for the next years around the anniversary of Boever’s death
The family of Joseph Boever, pictured with his wife Jenny, say the sentence handed down to the person who killed them makes them angry
Stanley County Courthouse Judge John Brown ordered the first-term attorney general to pay $500 fines for each of the two charges and pay $3,742.38 in restitution.
The maximum sentence for each charge was up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine on each charge.
The Republican will also participate in an annual public service event around the anniversary of Boever’s death for the next five years.
The judge denied a request, made by the victim’s family, to have Ravnsborg pay for the victim’s funeral expenses. Brown told court that Boever’s life insurance police would have covered those costs.
‘Unfortunately, the outcome here was tragic,’ Brown told the court. ‘It was unnecessary, and certainly not what anyone – including the defendant -would have wanted to happen.
Ravnsborg claimed at the time that he thought he had struck a deer, and only the next morning realized he killed a man
‘…I understand the outcome here leaves a lot of questions unanswered. No resolve her is going to satisfy everyone, or perhaps anyone.’
Ravnsborg initially told authorities that he thought he had struck a deer or another large animal while he was driving home to Pierre from a Republican fundraiser on the evening of the crash.
He claimed he had searched the unlit area with a cell phone flashlight and didn´t realize he had killed a man until the next day when he returned to the scene on U.S. 14, near Highmore. He maintained this account even though investigators said the victim’s glasses flew into his car after the impact.
Thursday’s sentence sparked furor from the victim’s family, who said Ravnsborg has acted disgracefully throughout the entire process.
‘It does make me angry,’ Nick Nemec, Boever’s cousin, told Mailonline.com ‘Every step of the way, where (Ravnsborg) had the opportunity to act with honor, he chose to act with dishonor.’
‘A person in a position of power in South Dakota dragged the victim’s family through a year of hell rather than step up and do the right thing,’ Nemec added. ‘There is no justice. We’ll just have to go on with our lives.’
Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek personally responded to Raynsborg’s 911 call following the crash and told him car was too damaged to drive home
After calling 911 to report the crash, Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek personally responded to the scene to assess the damage and help search for what he hit.
He said they searched the area around the vehicle with flashlights but neither of them spotted Boever lying in a ditch, according to previous report written by the attorney general.
Since Ravnsborg’s car was too damaged to drive and a tow truck would take more than an hour to arrive, Voltek offered to let the politician take his personal car back to Pierre.
Nick Nemec the victim’s cousin, says the sheriff who helped Raysnborg after the crash did not do his job properly
‘I think he got preferential treatment from a lazy sheriff who didn’t even bother to check the scene,’ Nemec said. ‘There was no deer hair. That should have clued the sheriff if the sheriff in. If the sheriff had bothered to pull out a flashlight and check the scene of the crash, he would have seen a body.’
The morning after the crash, Ravnsborg and his chief of staff traveled to Highmore to return Volek’s vehicle. The pair stopped at the crash site on the way, which was when they found Boever’s body in the grass.
In videos released by Gov. Kristi Noem this year, criminal investigators confronted Ravnsborg with gruesome details of the crash.
‘His face was in your windshield, Jason,’ one investigator told him. ‘Think about that.’
Detectives told the attorney general that bone scrapings were found on the shoulder’s rumble strip, but Ravnsborg remained defiant.
‘I never saw him,’ he told detectives. ‘I never saw him.’
A toxicology report taken roughly 15 hours after the crash showed no alcohol in Ravnsborg´s system, and people attending the fundraiser said he was not seen drinking alcohol.
Ravnsborg´s attorneys filed a motion last month alleging that Boever’s alcoholism and prescription drug abuse led at least one family member, a cousin, to believe that a depressed Boever killed himself by jumping in front of Ravnsborg´s car.
Attorneys for Jenny Boever, the victim’s widow, have said she plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Ravnsborg hasn’t said whether he will seek a second term next year, but his predecessor, Marty Jackley, is running for his old job.
Jackley served for 10 years in the post before losing the Republican primary for governor to Noem in 2018.
The fatal crash has prompted some, including Noem, to call for the attorney general’s impeachment.
Gov. Kristi Noem, a fellow Republican, issued a statement in February, ‘I believe the Attorney General should resign.’
South Dakota House lawmakers began impeachment proceedings in February, but South Dakota’s House of Representatives agreed in March to hold off on the proceedings until the court case reached its conclusion.