PIERRE, S.D. — The trial of South Dakota's attorney general over three traffic citations related to his striking and killing a man along the roadside last fall gets underway this Thursday, Aug. 26 in a courthouse in Ft. Pierre.
While Jason Ravnsborg won't face stiffer penalties for the deadly collision with pedestrian Joe Boever, an encounter he first errantly confirmed to the 911 dispatcher could've been involved a "large animal," the high-ranking, Republican official could still face time behind-bars for use of a cell phone while driving, crossing the white line and careless driving — all charges under state law carrying up to 30 days in jail.
The two-day trial will be held in the Stanley County Courthouse in Fort Pierre, S.D., as the Hyde County Courthouse in Highmore, near where Ravnsborg's white Ford Taurus struck Boever the night of Sept. 12 while the AG returned from a GOP fundraiser in Redfield, lacks air conditioning.
With allowances from Judge John Brown, the 6th Circuit Court judge who's returned from retirement to oversee the proceedings, an audio feed of the proceedings will be broadcast over the airwaves of Law & Crime, as well as statewide television networks.
A producer with Law & Crime, a national TV network owned by A&E, requested video feed, as well, but Brown rejected that idea in an email earlier this month that was filed with the court.
"Given Mr. Ravnsborg's previous objections, video will not be allowed," wrote Brown. "Audio will be through pooling with the prior request."
The state's AG, elected as a brash political figure with little prosecutorial experience in 2018, will not face a jury of his peers, as the trial will be before only the judge, said court administrator Heather Covey, in an email exchange with the producers.
Also on Monday, KELO News reported that the psychiatric records of Boever — whom Ravnsborg's legal team attempted to depict as suicidal during a July hearing — will not be brought up at trial. In July, Sioux Falls attorney (and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Scott Heidepriem wrote to the judge on behalf of his client, Boever's widow, invoking a controversial victim's right's law called Marsy's Law in requesting the records be tightly held.
"The records sought by the Attorney General have a high likelihood of disclosing sensitive details about Jenny [Boever]," said Heidepriem, who is expected to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court against Ravnsborg.
The winding road to the courtroom for what even Ravnsborg's own publicist in February characterized as "traffic citations" has included calls from Gov. Kristi Noem for Ravnsborg to resign and an ultimately-paused attempt by the legislature to impeach the AG before Brown slapped a gag order on all state officials.
Meanwhile, Ravnsborg — who was seen in video footage reacting passively as two North Dakota investigators told him that Boever's glasses landed in his front seat after he'd punctured the Taurus' windshield — has remained on the job and filing lawsuits on behalf of the state, testifying on bills in Pierre.