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South Dakota attorney general who killed man in hit-and-run then told cops he hit a deer, claims the victim was suicidal and may have thrown himself at car

 South Dakota's attorney general has claimed that the man he killed in a hit-and-run, which he told police was a deer, was suicidal and had thrown himself at his car.  

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg faces three misdemeanor charges after he struck and killed Joe Boever the night of September 12, 2020.

Investigators say Ravnsborg was distracted and swerved out of his lane on Highway 14 near Highmore as Boever, 55, walked on the shoulder with a flashlight.

Now Ravnsborg is attempting to access any psychiatric or psychological records of Boever to try and prove the victim had been trying to commit suicide.

A motion filed Friday alleges a pattern of alcoholism and prescription drug abuse by Boever that caused at least one family member, a cousin, to believe that a depressed Boever killed himself by jumping in front of Ravnsborg's car.

Ravnsborg's attorney, Tim Rensch, filed the motion saying that Boever's cousin Barnabas Nemec had recounted to him that in December, 2019 Boever had told him that his preferred method of suicide would be to throw himself in front of a car.  

Additionally, Rensch, disputes law enforcement's findings that Boever was struck on the shoulder of the highway and instead believes he was hit on the roadway, according to the court filing.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is alleging that Joe Boever, whom he struck and killed on a highway on Sept. 12, 2020, may have intentionally stepped in front of his vehicle
Joe Boever

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (left) is alleging that Joe Boever, whom he struck and killed on a highway on Sept. 12, 2020, may have intentionally stepped in front of his vehicle

Ravnsborg's attorney says that Boever's cousin, Barnabas Nemec, recalled a conversation in which Boever had said his preferred method of suicide would be to throw himself in front of a car. His brother, Nick Nemec (pictured), however disputes his sibling's analysis of the situation

Ravnsborg's attorney says that Boever's cousin, Barnabas Nemec, recalled a conversation in which Boever had said his preferred method of suicide would be to throw himself in front of a car. His brother, Nick Nemec (pictured), however disputes his sibling's analysis of the situation

'The evidence on the roadway and shoulder as examined by law enforcement the day after the death of Mr. Boever was different than it was the night before as there was wind, continued vehicle travel, and movement of the Ravnsborg vehicle by law enforcement in the interim,' the motion read.

The attorney general is charged with careless driving, operating a vehicle while on an electronic device and driving outside of his lane.

Nemec's brother, Nick Nemec, said he doesn't trust his sibling's analysis of the situation because he's prone to jump to conclusions.

'The attorney general can throw anything he wants at the wall to try to prove his innocence,' Nick said. 'The fact the attorney general is stigmatizing someone who may have been diagnosed with depression is troubling and insulting.'

Ravnsborg told officials he never saw Boever and thought he struck a deer.

Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek responded to the scene, and let Ravnsborg take his car home to Pierre after searching the scene with flashlights since Ravnsborg's car was too damaged to drive. 

Ravnsborg said they didn't realize he hit and killed a person until he returned to the scene the next morning.


Rvnsborg, a Republican has faced calls from GOP Gov. Kristi Noem, three law enforcement organizations and some legislators to resign, and on Feb. 23 faced an impeachment resolution by South Dakota lawmakers. 

That same day Noem released two videos in which investigators questioned Ravsnborg on how he initially didn't realize he had struck Boever, and revealed gruesome details about the collision with an investigator at one point telling Ravnsborg: 'His face was in your windshield, Jason, think about that.'

Ravnsborg said he initially believed he had struck a deer, and didn't discover Boever's body until the next day. Pictured is Ravnsborg's damaged car

Ravnsborg said he initially believed he had struck a deer, and didn't discover Boever's body until the next day. Pictured is Ravnsborg's damaged car 

The scene of the fatal hit and run on September 12 as the investigation began

The scene of the fatal hit and run on September 12 as the investigation began

Tire tracks are seen on the side of US Highway 14 near the area where Ravnsborg struck Boever as he drove home from a Republican fundraiser in September. Ravnsborg's attorney is now saying that Boever was truck on the highway and not on its shoulder

Tire tracks are seen on the side of US Highway 14 near the area where Ravnsborg struck Boever as he drove home from a Republican fundraiser in September. Ravnsborg's attorney is now saying that Boever was truck on the highway and not on its shoulder 

Ravnsborg, who was elected to his first term in 2018, has indicated he has no intention of stepping down.

'The Attorney General does not intend to resign,' Ravnsborg spokesperson Mike Deaver told CNN.

'At no time has this issue impeded his ability to do the work of the office. Instead, he has handled some of the largest settlements and legislative issues the state has ever been through.'

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has called on Ravnsborg to resign and in February released video recordings in which investigators questioned the attorney general's side of the story

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has called on Ravnsborg to resign and in February released video recordings in which investigators questioned the attorney general's side of the story 

He added that 'as an attorney and a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserves, AG Ravnsborg has fought for the rule of law and personal liberties and would hope that he is afforded the same right and courtesy.' 

Noem made the extraordinary move of releasing over three hours of video from two separate interviews as the impeachment charges were being filed.

One took place two days after the crash, while the other was weeks later, after investigators had determined more details about what happened.

Ravnsborg appeared unsure of how he had swerved onto a highway shoulder and killed Boever as he was driving home to Pierre from a Republican fundraiser, but detectives told him Boever's glasses had been found inside his Ford Taurus and that bone scrapings were found on the rumble strip of the highway shoulder.

Investigators said they found one part of Boever's severed glasses on the front, passenger-side floorboard, and the other part in the back seat.

'Do you normally wear glasses or anything when you're driving?' one investigator asked in the first interview. Ravnsborg said he didn't, and they follow up with a brief discussion about what glasses he wears. 

In the follow-up interview, investigators tell Ravnsborg: 'They're Joe's glasses. So that means his face came through your windshield'.

The attorney general gasps and says, 'I wondered about that', as he said he had thought there would be more blood if something had come through the windscreen.

He appeared distressed as he heard how the impact with Boever's body had left an imprint on the car hood and smashed the windshield.

'I never saw him,' he told the investigators. 'I never saw him.'

In the interview, Ravnsborg insisted he wasn't looking at his phone at the moment his car struck and killed Boever.

The detectives pressed Ravnsborg on whether he was distracted when he hit Boever. 

After he said he was not using his phone before the crash, they confronted him with phone records, telling him they show he logged into his Yahoo email account and accessed a news website minutes before he called 911 to report the crash.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation interviews South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg on September 30 about the hit and run in which Joseph Boever was killed

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation interviews South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg on September 30 about the hit and run in which Joseph Boever was killed

South Dakota House moves to impeach AG after fatal crash
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'So, when we look at that, our concern is everything we are seeing here is it's appearing you were on your phone reading political stuff at the time,' the detective told Ravnsborg, adding, 'People make mistakes.'

They pointed out that he had previously been called out for using Twitter while driving in the Black Hills, but Ravnsborg insisted that he had set the phone down before he hit Boever.

He said the last thing he remembered before the crash was turning off the radio and looking down at the speedometer.

He had been accelerating after passing through the town of Highmore but said he had not yet set his cruise control. Prosecutors said they determined Ravnsborg was driving 67 mph - just 2 mph over the speed limit - when he struck Boever.

The attorney general has been charged with using his phone while driving, but prosecutors said his phone records show he had locked the device about a minute before the crash.

The detectives also questioned how Ravnsborg could have searched the area with his cellphone flashlight, at one point walking right by Boever's body, and not seen his body.

They pointed out that part of Boever's white skin was exposed and a flashlight he had been carrying was still on. The detectives said it would have been hard to miss both Boever's body, lying in the grass near the highway pavement, and a flashlight shining on a dark night.

Ravnsborg has resisted calls to step down, and has been charged with misdemeanors in relation to the crash. His trial is set for Aug. 26

Ravnsborg has resisted calls to step down, and has been charged with misdemeanors in relation to the crash. His trial is set for Aug. 26

Ravnsborg insisted he saw neither and pointed out that the sheriff and tow truck driver who arrived later also had not spotted Boever's body or the flashlight.

Earlier in the interview, the attorney general told detectives that he had no idea he had killed a man until the next day when he stopped by the accident scene with his chief of staff, Tim Bormann.

He said, 'I found the body and I just came to Tim, and I said: "Tim, Tim, Tim, you've got to come here. I found a body".'

After an investigation that stretched over five months, prosecutors said they still had questions about the crash but were unable to file more serious criminal charges against Ravnsborg.

They charged him with careless driving, driving out of his lane and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone.


Michael Moore, the Beadle County State's Attorney who is assisting in the case, said that when Ravnsborg was interviewed by law enforcement after the crash, he gave 'varying examples of possibly what could have happened' to cause him to swerve on to the highway shoulder where he hit Boever. 

Moore said of the crash investigators' interview, 'We have to live with what information they give us.' 

Moore said that the videos' release defies open records laws that exempt such information from being made publicly available, could influence potential jurors, and violates 'the rules of professional responsibility' for criminal cases.

'Every defendant has the right to a fair and impartial trial,' he added.

South Dakota lawmakers agreed to halt their impeachment effort on March 8 pending the result of Ravnsborg's trial. 

Each charge against the attorney general carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail. 

His trial is scheduled to begin August 26.

Ravsnborg released a statement shortly after news of the crash was revealed

Ravsnborg released a statement shortly after news of the crash was revealed 

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