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Jason Ravnsborg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jason Ravnsborg
31st Attorney General of South Dakota
Assumed office
January 5, 2019
GovernorKristi Noem
Preceded byMarty Jackley
Personal details
Born (1976-04-12) April 12, 1976 (age 45)
Cherokee, Iowa, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationUniversity of South Dakota (BS, MA, JD)
WebsiteGovernment website
Campaign website
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1996–present
US-O6 insignia.svg
Battles/warsWar on Terror
 • Iraq Campaign
 • Afghanistan Campaign
Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze Star
Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg
Meritorious Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal ribbon.svg
Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal ribbon.svg
Army Achievement Medal

Jason Richard Ravnsborg[1] (born April 12, 1976) is an American attorney and politician. A Republican, he was elected Attorney General of South Dakota in 2018. Ravnsborg came in fifth place in the Republican primary for the 2014 United States Senate election in South Dakota, which was won by former Governor Mike Rounds.

Before becoming attorney general, Ravnsborg served in the United States Army and was a lawyer in private practice.

On September 12, 2020, Ravnsborg's vehicle hit and killed Joseph Boever while Ravnsborg was driving home 110 miles from a political fundraiser.[2] He called 911 and reported that he had hit something that damaged his car.[2] The Hyde County Sheriff, Mike Volek, loaned Ravnsborg his personal vehicle so Ravnsborg could finish the drive home.[2] Ravnsborg returned to the scene the next day and found Boever's body.[2] The state Department of Public Safety investigated the collision.[3][4] In February 2021, Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors, including careless driving, driving out of his lane and operating his car while using his phone.[5]

Early life and education

Ravnsborg (pronounced "Roundsberg")[6] was born in Cherokee, Iowa, the son of Richard Ravnsborg and Jeanne (Gordon) Ravnsborg.[7] He was raised on his family's farm and graduated from Cherokee Washington High School in 1994.[8][9]

After high school, Ravnsborg attended the University of South Dakota, from which he graduated in 1998 with a B.S. in history and political science.[1][4][8] He then attended the University of South Dakota School of Law, from which he graduated with a J.D. in 2001.[10] Also in 2001, Ravnsborg completed an M.A. in history from the University of South Dakota.[11] Beginning in 1996, he participated in the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps program and served in the United States Army Reserve.[12] In 1998, he received a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army's Transportation Corps.[12]

Military career

As he advanced through the Army Reserve's ranks, Ravnsborg held company command four times.[13] He also deployed on three different occasions: to Germany in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003, to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, and to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal after coming under enemy fire in Iraq.[4] From April 2017 to September 2019, he commanded the 394th Combat Service Support Battalion, in charge of over 600 soldiers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Missouri.[14][15] In April 2021, Ravnsborg announced that he had been promoted to colonel.[16]

Legal career

Ravnsborg is licensed to practice law in South Dakota and Iowa, as well as the federal district courts for South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Federal Court of Claims, and the United States Supreme Court.[17]

Ravnsborg clerked from 2001 to 2004. In 2004, he joined the law firm of Harmelink and Fox in Yankton, South Dakota. In 2006, he became a partner at the firm.[18] He retained this position until his election as state attorney general. He also served as deputy state's attorney for Union County.[19]

Political career

2014 United States Senate election

Ravnsborg ran for the United States Senate in the 2014 election.[20] He came in fifth in the Republican primary. The nomination went to former Governor Mike Rounds.[21]

Republican primary results[21]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Mike Rounds 41,377 55.54%
Republican Larry Rhoden 13,593 18.25%
Republican Stace Nelson 13,179 17.69%
Republican Annette Bosworth 4,283 5.75%
Republican Jason Ravnsborg 2,066 2.77%
Total votes 74,490 100.00%

2018 South Dakota attorney general election

In the 2018 election, Ravnsborg ran for attorney general of South Dakota. He began his campaign on February 21, 2017. He maintained his law practice at Harmelink, Fox, and Ravnsborg and continued as deputy state's attorney in Union County. He became the battalion commander of the 394th Combat Service Support Battalion of the Army Reserves, overseeing four company commands.[22]

Opposing Ravnsborg for the Republican nomination were Chief Deputy Attorney General Charlie McGuigan, Lawrence County State's Attorney John Fitzgerald,[23] and State Senator Lance Russell.[24] McGuigan suspended his campaign before the nominating convention.[25] In June 2018, Ravnsborg won the nomination at the Republican Convention in Pierre.[26][27] In the first round of voting, Ravnsborg led with 47% of the vote; Russell had 27%. Fitzgerald had 26%, which eliminated Fitzgerald. Ravnsborg then defeated Russell 63% to 37% in the second vote.[28]

2018 Attorney General Election Map by County; Ravnsborg=Red; Seiler=Blue
2018 Attorney General Election Map by County; Ravnsborg=Red; Seiler=Blue

The Democratic nominee was former U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler.[29]

Ravnsborg was endorsed in the general election by 40 county sheriffs,[30] the Fraternal Order of Police,[31] 30 state's attorneys, the National Rifle Association,[32] South Dakota Right to Life,[33] and the Family Heritage Alliance.[34]

Ravnsborg defeated Seiler in the November 6 general election.[35]

South Dakota Attorney General, General Election 2018[36]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jason Ravnsborg 179,071 55.16%
Democrat Randy Seiler 145,558 44.84%

Tenure as attorney General of South Dakota

Consumer and antitrust matters

The attorneys general of all 50 states, including Ravnsborg, supported the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACE) Act,[37] which passed Congress on overwhelming bipartisan majorities and became law in 2019.[38][39][40] In 2019, Ravnsborg joined his fellow attorneys general by entering into an agreement with 12 phone companies to combat illegal robocalls.[41][42] In 2020, he joined a bipartisan coalition of 52 state and territory attorneys general on USTelecom's Industry Traceback Group to bolster technological capabilities to improve enforcement against illegal robocallers.[43]

In September 2019, Ravnsborg spoke outside the U.S. Supreme Court about the opening of a bipartisan antitrust investigation into Google by 50 state attorneys general.[44][45]

In May 2020, Ravnsborg was one of 11 state attorneys general from the Midwest and West who called for a federal antitrust investigation into the meatpacking industry; he argued that there is a disparity between the prices for liveweight cattle and the retail cost of beef, with four meatpacking companies that control about 80% of the cattle market.[46][47]

In 2020, Honda entered into a $85 million multistate settlement to resolve allegations that it did not inform its consumers that it used airbags that posed a significant risk of rupture; Ravnsborg said that South Dakota's share would be slightly more than $2 million.[48][49]


Ravnsborg said during his campaign he would fight to uphold District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. He is a National Rifle Association life member.[50] Ravnsborg testified in support of SB 47, a bill to allow carrying of guns without a permit.[51] Governor Kristi Noem signed the bill into law, making South Dakota the 14th state to enact such a law.[52]

Organizational involvement

In 2019, Ravnsborg was named to several standing committees of the National Association of Attorneys General.[53][54] The same year, he was appointed to the executive council for Special Olympics and Law Enforcement Torch Run.[55] In 2020, Ravnsborg became co-chair of the NAAG Gaming Committee with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.[56] Also in 2020, he was elected as second vice chair and a member of the executive board of the Conference of Western Attorneys General.[57]

Criminal law

Probation and drug policy

Ravnsborg has unsuccessfully sought to restrict presumptive probation in South Dakota.[58][59] South Dakota's presumptive probation law mandates that persons convicted of certain nonviolent lower-level felonies (such as drug possession or use) be sentenced to probation unless a judge determines that a "significant risk" to the public exists.[59] Ravnsborg made proposals to eliminate or restrict presumptive probation central to his campaign and tenure, but the proposals failed due to insufficient support from the state legislature for the proposal in 2019.[59][58][60] State lawmakers and Governor Noem expressed concern about the proposal after a budget estimate projected that it would cost the state $54 million in additional jail and prison costs over a decade.[59][60] Ravnsborg pushed the proposal again in 2020.[59]

In 2019, Ravnsborg took the position that industrial hemp and all forms of cannabidiol (CBD oil) are illegal in South Dakota (see marijuana in South Dakota).[61][62] In 2020, he opposed a state legislative proposal to reduce the crime of "ingesting a controlled substance" from a felony to a class-one misdemeanor, arguing that the proposal would insufficiently deter drug use; a state senate committee rejected the proposal, leaving South Dakota as the only U.S. state that makes ingestion a felony.[63]

Death penalty

In 2019, Ravnsborg testified against a bill to prohibit capital punishment of any person with a severe mental illness.[64] The bill was defeated in committee 4–3, but it was voted on out of committee and was defeated by the state senate 21−12.[64]

In 2019, Ravnsborg appeared in the 7th Circuit Court in Rapid City to request a warrant of execution for Charles Russell Rhines for the 1992 murder of Donnivan Schaeffer.[65] Judge Robert A. Mandel granted the warrant.[66] The South Dakota Supreme Court subsequently denied Rhines's request for a stay of execution.[67] After appeals and a clemency petition were denied, Rhines was executed.[68][69][70][71]

Investigation of Minnehaha County state's attorney

In 2019, Noem requested that Ravnsborg investigate Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan after he was absent for two months.[72] Ravnsborg's report determined that McGowan did not commit a crime, but outlined numerous alcohol-related incidents that Noem called "unsettling";[73][74] after the report was released, McGowan issued an apology.[75] In December 2019, McGowan resigned, citing ill health and negative press attention.[76][77]

Lawsuit to block ERA ratification

In December 2019, Alabama, Louisiana, and South Dakota sued to prevent the implementation of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[78]

Missing persons

Ravnsborg introduced legislation in the state legislature to create a missing-person and runaway-child clearinghouse; the legislature unanimously approved the bill, and Noem signed it into law in 2020.[79][80][81][82][83] Ravnsborg has held "Missing Persons Mondays SD" to highlight one missing-persons case each week.[84][85]

Faithless electors cases

In 2020, Ravnsborg joined a coalition of 44 states and the District of Columbia in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Colorado and Washington regarding the Electoral College and faithless electors in the cases of Chiafalo v. Washington and Colorado Department of State v. Baca; the brief supported the right of states to bind electors to their states' votes.[86][87] The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a state may penalize a "faithless elector" for breaking their pledge by voting for someone other than the presidential candidate who won the state's popular vote.[88]

LGBT rights

In 2019, Ravnsborg signed onto an amicus brief in Bostock v. Clayton County urging the Supreme Court to find that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides no protection against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.[89][90]

Presidential elector

At the 2020 Republican State Convention, Ravnsborg was elected one of South Dakota's three Republican presidential electors along with Noem and Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden.[91] Incumbent Republicans Donald Trump and Mike Pence won the state in the November election.[92] When South Dakota's electors met on December 14, Noem was replaced by state Republican chairman Dan Lederman.[92] Ravnsborg, Rhoden, and Lederman then formally ratified South Dakota's results by casting their electoral votes for Trump and Pence.[92]

Joining challenge to 2020 presidential election results

On December 8, 2020, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, where certified results showed Joe Biden defeated Trump. Paxton, Ravnsborg,[93][94] and 16 other states' attorneys general who supported Paxton's challenge of the election results alleged numerous instances of unconstitutional actions in the four states' presidential ballot tallies, arguments that had already been rejected in other state and federal courts.[95] In Texas v. Pennsylvania, Paxton asked the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the states' 62 electoral votes, allowing Trump to win a second presidential term.[96] Because the suit has been characterized as a dispute between states, the Supreme Court retained original jurisdiction, though it often declines to hear such suits.[97] There was no evidence of consequential illegal voting in the election.[98] Paxton's lawsuit included claims that had been tried unsuccessfully in other courts and shown to be false.[99] Officials from each of the four states said Paxton's lawsuit recycled false and disproven claims of irregularity.[100] The merits of the objections were sharply criticized by legal experts and politicians.[101][102] Election law expert Rick Hasen called the lawsuit "the dumbest case I've ever seen filed on an emergency basis at the Supreme Court."[103][104] U.S. Senator Ben Sasse said the situation of Paxton initiating the lawsuit "looks like a fella begging for a pardon filed a PR stunt", in reference to Paxton's own state and federal legal issues (securities fraud charges and abuse of office allegations).[105] On December 11, the Supreme Court quickly rejected the suit in an unsigned opinion.[106]


Ravnsborg filed an amicus brief in support of the Kimberly Rice Kaestner 1992 Trust in the U.S. Supreme Court in North Carolina Department of Revenue v. Kimberly Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust.[107] Alaska, Nevada, and Texas joined South Dakota in their amicus brief. In 2019, the Court unanimously ruled in favor of the trust.[108]

In 2019, Ravnsborg, Noem and Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom were sued by the Indigenous Environmental Network, Sierra Club and other groups over legislation passed in response to protests against the Keystone Pipeline. The plaintiffs argued that two laws, one of which created a fund to cover the costs of policing pipeline protests, while the other sought to raise revenue for the fund by creating civil penalties for advising, directing, or encouraging participation in rioting, violate First Amendment rights by incentivizing the state to sue protesters.[109]

In 2020, Ravnsborg announced that a second law-enforcement training academy would open in Minnehaha County.[110]

Fatal pedestrian strike

Death and investigation

On September 12, 2020, Ravnsborg struck and killed a pedestrian while driving home from a South Dakota Republican Party fundraiser in Redfield, about 110 miles (180 km) from his home in Pierre,[111][112] on U.S. Highway 14, west of Highmore.[113] He later said that after the collision, while he was still in his car, he called the Hyde County Sheriff's Office and reported that he thought he had struck a deer.[4] After making the call he said he exited his car to survey the damage. Sheriff Mike Volek went to inspect Ravnsborg's car, which was too damaged to drive. Volek then lent Ravnsborg his personal vehicle to drive himself home.[114]

The 55-year-old pedestrian had been walking along the side of the highway.[114] Ravnsborg said he discovered the victim's body the next morning when he returned the sheriff's car and went to the scene of the accident in an attempt to find the carcass of the deer he thought that he had struck.[115] An investigation of the collision was initiated.[116][117][118] The victim's broken reading glasses were discovered inside Ravnsborg's Ford Taurus, leading detectives to tell Ravnsborg that "his face was in your windshield"; Ravnsborg denied seeing the man's body or the glasses in his car.[119]

The victim's wife said she was not notified of his death until 22 hours after the collision.[114] In November, investigators for the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) indicated that Ravnsborg had been driving while distracted at the time of the incident, but did not say what caused the distraction.[120] The secretary of the DPS indicated that the department was making details and evidence from its investigation available to the state's attorney in Hyde County.[120]

In early December, the deputy state's attorney for Hyde County indicated that she and a team of state's attorneys from throughout the state were reviewing the evidence and would decide by Christmas whether to recommend charges.[121] The team was still reviewing evidence as of December 28, when the state's attorney for Minnehaha County confirmed that they were waiting results from testing on "debris that was in the middle of the test scene" and that a decision on whether to charge Ravnsborg was still pending.[122] Noem criticized the slowness of the investigation, suggesting in January 2021 that a grand jury be empaneled in order to bring a speedy resolution to the case.[123]

Criminal charges and impeachment proceedings

On February 17, 2021, Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors, including operating his vehicle while using his cell phone, driving outside his lane, and careless driving.[124] Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a fine of $500.[124] Prosecutors chose not to charge Ravnsborg with vehicular homicide or second-degree manslaughter, and South Dakota has no negligent homicide law.[125]

On February 24, 2021, in response to the charges and the public release of almost six hours of detectives' interviews with Ravnsborg, Noem called on Ravnsborg to resign.[119][126] Ravnsborg said he would not resign and believed he could still effectively perform the attorney general's duties.[126] The same day, a group of state representatives led by Will Mortenson submitted two articles of impeachment against Ravnsborg, with Mortenson saying, "I do not believe Attorney General Ravnsborg belongs in prison, but I know he does not belong in the Office of the Attorney General anymore."[119] The state House's two party leaders, Majority Leader Kent Peterson and Minority Leader Jamie Smith, co-sponsored the impeachment articles.[127]

In March 2021, the state House voted 57–11 to pause impeachment proceedings against Ravnsborg while a judge considers the criminal case against him.[128][129]

Vehicular violation history

Ravnsborg pleaded guilty to six speeding infractions between 2014 and 2018, paying a fine for each.[130] He received two additional speeding citations in the neighboring state of Iowa.[131]


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External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Marty Jackley
Attorney General of South Dakota
This page was last edited on 13 April 2021, at 23:32
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