A prosecutor is defending his charging decisions in Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg's criminal case.
Michael Moore says the prosecution was limited by state laws, and he says politicians should change the laws if they don’t like them.
Moore and prosecutor Emily Sovell charged Ravnsborg with careless driving, driving outside his lane and driving while on his phone after Ravnsborg accidently hit and killed a pedestrian with his car last year.
Ravnsborg was fined $1,000 after pleading no contest to using his phone and driving outside his lane.
Some critics say Ravnsborg should have faced more serious charges.
Craig Price, secretary of the Department of Public Safety, said he shared his thoughts with the prosecutors.
“In my opinion as a 24-year law enforcement officer, and in the opinion of the highly trained Highway Patrol officers involved in this investigation, Mr. Ravnsborg should have been charged with second-degree manslaughter,” Price wrote in a letter to the speaker of the South Dakota House of Representatives.
Gov. Kristi Noem – who appointed Price – also criticized the prosecutors and has encouraged the Legislature to consider impeaching Ravnsborg.
“Like many South Dakotans, I am not only disappointed in how this process was handled by prosecutors, but outraged at the result of today’s plea hearing and sentencing,” she said in an earlier news release.
Moore rejected this criticism.
“I would say to the politicians out there that are making this very political, they have a remedy. But to point their fingers at the criminal justice system or at the prosecutors I think is wrong,” he said.
The state has no negligent homicide law, Moore noted. He said there wasn’t proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Ravnsborg’s actions met the legal definition of “reckless” behavior, which is needed to charge someone with second-degree manslaughter.
Moore said the remedy is for politicians to change the law, especially by making negligent homicide a crime. A bill was introduced in 2016 but it would have excluded any traffic accidents. It failed.
“They should only be pointing fingers at themselves,” Moore said. “If the governor wanted that to be a law, let’s see it. Propose it in the next legislative session. If the legislators want it to be a law, propose it in the next legislative session. But quit criticizing the criminal justice system because we’re bound by what you tell us to do and we followed the law in this case.”
For now, Moore said victim Joe Boever’s family can try to seek further justice with a lawsuit.