South Dakota seeks to remove attorney general involved in deadly crash

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image captionJason Ravnsborg was interviewed twice by investigators

South Dakota lawmakers have launched a bid to remove the state's attorney general from office after authorities say he fatally hit a man with his car.

Jason Ravnsborg has said he thought he had struck a deer and did not know it was a man until one day later.

Newly released video shows agents telling Mr Ravnsborg the victim's glasses were found in his car, and that "his face was in your windshield".

The Republican faces three misdemeanour charges and months in prison.

He has resisted calls to resign, including from South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who called on her Republican colleague to step down on Tuesday.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers began the impeachment proceedings against Mr Ravnsborg the same day.

In an unusual move, Ms Noem released the footage of Mr Ravnsborg's questioning later on Tuesday.

How did the crash happen?

Attorney General Ravnsborg - the state's highest ranked lawyer - was driving home from a party fundraiser on 12 September 2020 when officials say he hit and killed Joseph Boever, 55.

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

Prosecutors say he was driving at 67mph (108km/h), 2mph over the speed limit, and that records show he had locked his mobile phone about one minute before the collision.

Investigators arriving at the scene one day after the crash found a working torch, which was still on and only inches from the road, and bone scrapings on the ground.

Mr Boever's cousin, Victor Nemec, told the Argus Leader newspaper that Mr Boever's truck had been damaged earlier that night, and that he may have been walking alongside the road when he was struck.

Mr Ravnsborg, 44, has said that he only learned a man had been killed when he returned to the scene the next day with his chief of staff.

His spokesman said in a statement that Mr Ravnsborg "has fought for the rule of law and personal liberties and would hope that he is afforded the same right and courtesy" from the legal system.

He added that Mr Ravsnborg would not resign.

What is in the new video?

On Tuesday, the South Dakota Department of Public Safety published new footage of Mr Ravnsborg being interviewed by agents over two occasions after the crash in September.

Mr Ravnsborg told investigators in the video he "never saw anything until the impact".

"I immediately jump out of the car and call 911 within seconds."

"I'm thinking it's a deer at this point, but I had, I did not see anything. I didn't have time to swerve or accelerate or decelerate or anything," Mr Ravnsborg added. "I didn't see anything."

media captionSouth Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is questioned after the deadly crash

Investigators asked him if he wore eyeglasses, in an interview on 14 September. He said that he did not.

In an interview on 30 September, investigators told him that eyeglasses belonging to the victim had been found inside his car.

"So that means his face came through your windshield," the agent said, pointing to Mr Boever's glasses on the table.

"The only way for them to get there is through the windshield," the investigator continued. "His face was in your windshield, Jason. Think about that."

An autopsy found Mr Boever's cause of death was injury from a pedestrian and vehicle crash.

Three toxicology documents reported that Mr Ravnsborg had no alcohol or drugs in his system when samples were taken the following day, according to the Leader newspaper.

What have lawmakers said?

State lawmakers say in their impeachment resolution that Mr Ravnsborg should be removed from office for "his crimes or misdemeanours in office causing the death" of Mr Boever.

"I think he owes a special duty to protect the people and uphold the laws," said Congressman Will Mortensen, who represents the area where the crash occurred and co-sponsored the resolution.

"And I think that the actions in these incidents fell short of that duty."

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