A former South Dakota attorney general urges the state Supreme Court to let him keep his law license

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PIERRE, S.D. — Former South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg on Wednesday urged the state Supreme Court to dismiss an effort to suspend his law license, arguing that he took responsibility and acted professionally following a deadly accident with a pedestrian that precipitated his political downfall.

Ravnsborg was impeached and removed as attorney general less than two years after the 2020 accident that killed 55-year-old Joe Boever, who was walking along a rural stretch of highway when he was struck. Now, a disciplinary board of the South Dakota State Bar is seeking a 26-month suspension of Ravnsborg’s law license, though it would be retroactive to June 2022, when he left office. That means the suspension would end in August.

It’s unclear when the court will decide if the suspension should be imposed.

Ravnsborg spoke on his own behalf at the court hearing. He told justices that contrary to the disciplinary board’s allegations, he was remorseful.

“I’m sorry, again, to the Boever family that this has occurred,” Ravnsborg told the court. “It’s been 1,051 days, and I count them every day on my calendar, and I say a prayer every day for him and myself and all the members of the family and all the people that it’s affected. And I’m very sorry for that.”

Thomas Frieberg, an attorney for the disciplinary board, said members focused on Ravnsborg’s actions after the accident.

“The board felt very strongly that he was, again, less than forthright. That he was evasive,” Frieberg said.

Ravnsborg, a first-term Republican, was driving home from a political fundraiser on the night of Sept. 12, 2020, when his car struck “something,” according to a transcript of his 911 call. He told the dispatcher it might have been a deer or other animal.

Relatives later said Boever had crashed his truck and was walking toward it, near the road, when he was hit.

Investigators identified what they thought were slips in Ravnsborg’s statements, such as when he said he turned around at the accident scene and “saw him” before quickly correcting himself and saying: “I didn’t see him.” And they contended that Boever’s face had come through Ravnsborg’s windshield because his glasses were found in the car.

Ravnsborg has said neither he nor the county sheriff knew that Boever’s body was lying just feet from the pavement on the highway shoulder. Investigators determined that Ravnsborg walked right past Boever’s body and his illuminated flashlight as he looked around the scene the night of the crash.

Ravnsborg resolved the criminal case in 2021 by pleading no contest to a pair of traffic misdemeanors, including making an illegal lane change and using a phone while driving, and was fined by a judge. Also in 2021, Ravnsborg agreed to an undisclosed settlement with Boever’s widow.

At the 2022 impeachment hearing, prosecutors told senators that Ravnsborg made sure that officers knew he was attorney general, saying he used his title “to set the tone and gain influence” in the aftermath of the crash. Ravnsborg’s attorney, Michael Butler, told the state Supreme Court that Ravnsborg was only responding when an officer asked if he was attorney general.

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