SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota—South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who is facing criminal charges after running over and killing a man last year, is celebrating a pending promotion in the U.S. Army Reserves—which the family of his victim called a “slap in the face.”
Ravnsborg has refused to step away from his role as the top law enforcement officer in the state in the seven months since he slammed into Joe Boever on a highway, allegedly while reading political news on his cellphone during a drive home from a GOP party.
And on Thursday, Ravnsborg revealed that the accident apparently hasn’t hurt his military career either since he has been recommended for promotion from lieutenant colonel to colonel.
“Today—I was notified that I made the promotion list to full COLONEL in the Army Reserves,” he said in a Facebook post that included the full-bird symbol for a colonel.
“Only 34% of those eligible were promoted in the Army Reserves.
“It is quite an honor and I have been proud to serve our great nation for over 24 years! through 3 deployments, Battalion Command and 4 company commands serving with so many other great Americans!
Nick Nemec, Boever’s cousin, told The Daily Beast he was dismayed by the announcement.
“I am astonished,” said Nemec, who attended West Point for two years and served 15 years in the Marine Corps, five on active duty. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and left as a captain. Nemec said promotion boards meet annually and usually go by seniority.
He had already planned to contact the Army Reserves board to protest against any possible promotion for Ravnsborg when the announcement caught him by surprise.
“I would think they would at least want to put a hold on his name until he cleared himself or was convicted,” Nemec said. “This is just a slap in the face.
“It brings discredit on the Army. It looks like they will promote any yahoo to colonel. He’s not getting promoted to private first class, he’s being promoted to colonel,” he said. “Bringing discredit on the service is a big damn deal. You don’t do stuff that casts your service in a bad light, and this casts the Army in a bad light. He barely escaped a felony charge. He’s been pulling an inside straight for some time now.”
Nemec said he now plans to contact high-ranking officers he has known for more than four decades, including a former classmate at West Point, but doubts that will do much good.
“I’m thinking he’s going to be a colonel now,” Nemec said.
The Daily Beast was unable to reach anyone who could comment at Army Reserve offices in South Dakota.
Ravnsborg killed Boever on Sept. 12 just west of Highmore as Boever walked back home from his disabled vehicle. Ravnsborg was not immediately checked for alcohol or drug use, and Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek loaned him a car to drive home.
The fatal crash was under investigation for months, until Feb. 18, when Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Sovell announced three misdemeanor charges against Boever: operating a vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, illegal lane change and careless driving.
The three charges each carry a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. The next scheduled hearing is May 12.
It’s uncertain if Ravnsborg will be a full colonel at that point, or if he will appear in court.
Ravnsborg, a first-term Republican, remains in office at a salary of $118,603.03 after ignoring calls for his resignation, including one from Gov. Kristi Noem. An impeachment effort launched in February ran out of steam, as legislators said they would wait to see the outcome of his criminal trial before proceeding.