Based on what we now know, and perhaps on what we’ll never know, South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg should resign.
We now know Ravnsborg’s fate in the judicial process after his involvement in a traffic accident a year ago next month that killed a pedestrian in Hyde County. The attorney general took a plea deal last week just before his trial was to begin.
We have known about numerous details — ranging from the vague to the grisly — that have been tied to this case and have haunted our imaginations for months.
We know he faced charges only in regard to how he operated his vehicle, not in causing the death of Joseph Boever, who reportedly had been walking along the side of the road on the dark night of Sept. 12 when he was struck by Ravnsborg’s vehicle.
We know Ravnsborg entered not-guilty pleas to the misdemeanor charges and, at one point, his lawyer attempted to make Boever’s mental health the crux of the defense, an attempt that was dismissed by a judge.
We know that, shortly after that effort was scuttled, Ravnsborg agreed to a plea deal that will keep him out of jail. He will pay $500 plus $3,742 in court costs. So, we’ll never know how a jury would have weighed the evidence.
We know today that Ravnsborg has pointed to “partisan opportunists” who have “manufactured rumors, conspiracy theories and made statements in direct contradiction to the evidence all sides agreed upon.”
Thus, we know, as Gov. Kristi Noem pointed out last week in also calling for the AG’s resignation, that Ravnsborg has not accepted responsibility for this situation, despite the fact that he is both the top attorney and top law enforcement officer in South Dakota.
The attorney general has lost the respect of much of the public and, quite possibly, many of the law enforcement personnel under him.
Based on what we know of him when Ravnsborg was a Yankton attorney, there can be little doubt that this incident has had a deep impact on him — how could it not? But his actions since the incident have seemingly focused much more on legal maneuvering and political calculus rather that a sense of public responsibility, humility and contrition.
His actions have not been those of an attorney general elected by the people, but as a defendant looking for any angle to save himself.
His actions also suggest his political ambitions are still intact.
He has shown little remorse, at least outwardly, as he strives to put all this behind him and, perhaps, to take control of the public narrative.
But it’s not so easy. Among many other things, Ravnsborg will still have to reckon with a civil lawsuit, and he may still face impeachment by the Legislature.
And people will remember.
He has already lost the trust and the faith he needs to continue as attorney general.
Thus, he should not. He should resign.