The other car was going fast enough to put Boever's face through the windshield. Boever remained attached to the vehicle for at least 100 feet before he was deposited at the side of the road, with a leg severed from his body. He died on impact.
The driver who struck Boever, Jason Ravnsborg, called 911 and said he hit a large animal in the middle of the road. Soon after, sheriff Mike Volek arrived and couldn't find a body. Since Ravnsborg's car was in no condition to be operated, Volek lent Ravnsborg his personal car to complete his drive home. The next day, Ravnsborg returned to the scene and reported the discovery of Boever's body.
During the investigation, police discovered:
- Joseph Boever's flashlight was still turned on from his walk on the north side of an east-west freeway. He was walking against traffic, so Boever's flashlight would likely had been visible.
- Boever's broken eyeglasses were discovered inside Ravnsborg's car. Ravnsborg insisted he had no idea what kind of animal he hit on the night of the accident.
- The only other person present, Sheriff Volek, died while the investigation was taking place. - Boever wasn't hit in the middle of the road as Ravnsborg initially claimed, but well off the shoulder, as all four of Ravnsborg's wheels went over the highway's rumble strips before the accident.
While being investigated, Ravnsborg made statements about how he never uses his phone while driving and never drives more than four miles an hour over the speed limit. These statements were later proven to be false, as records showed both 1) that Ravnsborg had been pulled over at least eight times in two years for speeding more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit (often in company vehicles), and 2) that he was surfing the internet on his phone while driving on the night of the accident.
Jason Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanor counts: careless driving, using a cell phone while driving, and driving outside his lane. He never made it to court, instead entering a plea agreement. The agreement allowed him to drop the careless driving charge, plead no contest, and avoid admitting guilt for his crimes.
Ravnsborg was given no jail time, and ordered to pay both a fine of $1,000 and court costs of $3,000.
Throughout this whole story, you may ask yourself, "Why did the first responding sheriff give Ravnsborg his car to drive home? Why didn't the investigators use Ravnsborg's reckless driving as cause for a manslaughter charge? Why were investigators so open to let Ravnsborg lie about facts of the case? Why was Jason Ravnsborg given such a slap on a wrist in the end?"
Jason Ravnsborg is the Attorney General of South Dakota.
Is, not was.
Two years after his distracted driving killed another human being, Ravnsborg has suffered no consequences besides a fine that is smaller than the cost of the body-work on his car.
That may not be true for long, however, as earlier this week the South Dakota state legislature has moved forward with an impeachment of the Attorney General. The impeachment comes with a suspension while a Senate trial is prepared. Ravnsborg wasn't present for the impeachment, instead sending letters which include gems like:
- "No state has ever impeached an elected official for a traffic accident."
- "Governor [of South Dakota Kristi] Noem violated my civil rights and my privacy rights."
- "... let the healing process continue."
If I was a member of Joseph Boever's family and I heard "let the healing process continue" from the lips of the person who not only killed him without consequence, but called his death "a traffic accident," I couldn't imagine what I would do.
But I'm not a member of Joseph Boever's family, so the least I can do is share this, his final story.
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