Feb. 19 (UPI) — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors on Thursday in connection with a fatal crash last September.
Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Sovell announced that Ravnsborg, 44, would face charges of operating a vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, illegal lane change and careless driving.
The charges each carry a maximum penalty of 30 days in county jail, a $500 fine or both.
On Sept. 12, Ravnsborg drove his car onto the north shoulder of Highway 14, striking Joseph Boever, 55, who was walking alongside the road with a light in his hand.
An investigation in November found that Ravnsborg was “distracted” at the time of the crash but Beadle County State’s Attorney Michael Moore said he was not a distracted driver at the time of impact.
“We know that because his phones were analyzed,” Moore said. “His phones were locked approximately 1 minute and 15 seconds prior to the impact.”
Sovell said the crash did not meet the conditions for manslaughter as toxicology reports showed Ravnsborg was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“For vehicular homicide in South Dakota, it requires that one be under the influence of alcohol, drugs or substances in a manner and a degree prohibited by law, without design to affect death, but that ultimately after negligent actions, results in the death of another human being,” said Sovell. “That’s simply not applicable in this case.”
In response to questions about whether Ravnsborg would be arrested, Sovell said a complaint had been filed and a judge would likely issue a summons to appear in court.
Ravnsborg released a statement saying this has been a “difficult and trying time for everyone involved” and that he “will continue to pray” for Boever and his family.
“I appreciate, more than ever, that the presumption of innocence placed within our legal system continues to work,” he said. “I have always practiced this in my professional life and I understand it even better now as I see that we live in a society where every person enjoys the protection of the law.”
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem tweeted Thursday that while she would not comment on the specifics of the charging decision she would direct the Department of Public Safety to “share additional details of the investigation with the public within the next week.”