Judge stops Noem from releasing records in AG's fatal crash
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A judge in South Dakota on Thursday prevented Governor Kristi Noem from releasing documents and videos during the attorney general's investigation for beating and killing a man with his car.
Defense lawyers for Jason Ravnsborg, the state's top law enforcement officer, argued that posting a video of his interviews with investigators and other documents violated his right to a fair trial. Ravnsborg faces three misdemeanor charges, as does the governor, who is calling for his resignation after confirming in a statement shortly after the crash that he struck and killed a man on the shoulder of a country road on September 12th thought, he would have hit a deer until he returned to the scene of the accident the next day and found the body.
A district court judge in the county where the crash took place ordered Noem and the Department of Public Security late Thursday to suspend the governor's plan to release additional documents from the crash investigation, the Argus leader reported. The judge also ordered the Ministry of Public Security to remove two videos from its website that it posted on Tuesday showing investigators interviewing Ravnsborg.
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Noem, a Republican, had tried to put pressure on the attorney general to step down earlier Thursday. He had promised to clear the investigative documents and recruited a senior cabinet member to join the choir and demand his removal from office.
Speaking at a press conference, Noem said she had decided to publicly call on Ravnsborg to resign after taking a day to review the investigation, including videos of his interviews with law enforcement. She decided to share the documents and video to create transparency for the investigation.
Ravnsborg, also a Republican, has announced that he will not step down and insists he can continue to perform the duties of his office despite the traffic fees and the legislative impeachment.
But Craig Price, Noem's public safety secretary, pushed for Ravnsborg's impeachment. Speaking to Noem at the press conference, Price said that "maintaining public confidence is vital to law enforcement officers," referencing his 20-year career as a police officer, which culminated in overseeing the state's Highway Patrol.
Price said the Department of Public Security was releasing the documents under state law.
Noem said she spent 10 hours on Monday going through the details of the crash investigation, a day before asking him to step down.
"I hadn't seen anything before but that is one of the reasons we moved forward on Tuesday and why I had my personal opinion that he should step down," she said.
The governor said she has not communicated directly with Ravnsborg since the accident.
Noem also took the extraordinary step of posting videos of Ravnsborg's interviews with detectives investigating the crash as he drove home from a Republican fundraiser. The videos have since been removed from the Ministry of Public Security's website.
In the interviews, Ravnsborg doesn't seem sure how his Ford Taurus drove onto the highway shoulder where he met 55-year-old Joseph Boever. Although he initially told investigators he hadn't used his cell phone while driving that night, he admitted that he checked email and news websites after investigators exposed him to his phone recordings.
Prosecutors have charged him with a wrongdoing for using his phone while driving, despite his phone recordings showing that the device was locked about a minute before the crash.
In the meantime, lawmakers were preparing to push impeachment proceedings next week. House spokesman Spencer Gosch has proposed forming a special committee to investigate Ravnsborg's behavior in the fatal crash.
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