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South Dakota AG gets fines, no jail time in pedestrian death

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg pleaded no contest Thursday to a pair of misdemeanor traffic charges over a crash last year that killed a pedestrian, avoiding jail time despite bitter complaints from the victim’s family that he was being too lightly punished for actions they called "inexcusable."
Circuit Judge John Brown had little leeway to order jail time. Instead, he fined the state's highest law enforcement official $500 for each of the two counts and ordered him to pay court costs of $3,742. Brown also ordered the Republican attorney general to "do a significant public service event" in each of the next five years near the date of Joseph Boever’s death — granting a request from the Boever family. But he put that on hold after Ravnsborg’s attorney objected that it was not allowed by statute.

Brown was to consider that argument and rule later.

Ravnsborg’s plea capped the criminal portion of a case that led fellow Gov. Kristi Noem — a fellow Republican — and prosecutors around the state to no longer support him. It didn’t end his troubles, though, as he still faces a likely lawsuit from the Boever family and a potential impeachment attempt.

Ravnsborg was driving home to Pierre from a political fundraiser on Sept. 12 when he struck the 55-year-old Boever, who walking on the side of a highway. In a 911 call after the crash, Ravnsborg was initially unsure about what he hit and then concluded it had been a deer. He said he didn’t realize he struck a man until he returned to the crash scene the next day and discovered the body of Boever, who was killed at age 55.

Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to charges of making an illegal lane change and using a phone while driving, which each carry a sentence of up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. He had been charged with three misdemeanors, but prosecutors dropped a careless driving charge as part of the deal.

A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for the purposes of sentencing.


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