South Dakota AG’s impeachment trial set for June 21-22
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The leader of the South Dakota Senate on Wednesday named a lead prosecutor for the impeachment trial of state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg and scheduled it for late June.
The announcement from Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck comes one day after House lawmakers voted to impeach Ravnsborg for a car crash that killed a pedestrian.
Ravnsborg, a Republican, is the first official to be impeached in South Dakota history and must take a leave until the Senate decides whether to remove him from office.
Schoenbeck set the trial for June 21-22. He said Pennington County prosecutor Mark Vargo will argue in favor of the two articles of impeachment — one for crimes that led to the death of Joe Boever and the other for malfeasance in office. Clay County State’s Attorney Alexis Tracy will assist in the prosecution.
Ravnsborg will get the chance to present his case. He said after the impeachment vote that he believes he will be vindicated.
The attorney general was driving home from a Republican dinner in September 2020 when he struck and killed Boever, who was walking along a rural highway. Ravnsborg pleaded no contest last year to a pair of traffic misdemeanors in the crash, including making an illegal lane change. He has cast Boever’s death as a tragic accident.
Schoenbeck said he expects senators to do their homework ahead of the trial.
“This isn’t like a criminal trial. It’s a political trial,” he said. “There’s no reason to have the senators sit on the floor and start reading reports. That should all be done beforehand. I believe it will be.”
Vargo was part of the original team of state’s attorneys that Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Sovell used in determining what criminal charges should be brought. Although he left the group before Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors, Schoenbeck said Vargo has a firm grasp of the evidence.
Vargo said Schoenbeck asked him to oversee the trial.
“It’s a simple as that,” Vargo said. “I did not lobby for it.”
The trial starts two days before the Republican convention in Watertown, where delegates will pick the party’s attorney general candidate for November’s general election.