The U.S. Army Reserve halted South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s promotion to full colonel pending the outcome of a criminal case in which Ravnsborg is accused of fatally striking a man with his car, authorities said.
Ravnsborg said last month on social media that he was up for promotion in the U.S. Army Reserve from lieutenant colonel to colonel. But an official with the Army Reserve confirmed to NBC News on Tuesday that Ravnsborg’s potential promotion is delayed until his criminal case concludes.
A promotion to colonel in the Army Reserve is usually presented to the U.S. Senate for confirmation.
“Army Reserve leadership is aware of the tragic incident allegedly involving LTC Jason Ravnsborg and is following applicable Army regulations and policies,” said Lt. Col. Simon B. Flake, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Reserve. “Soldiers pending investigation by civilian law enforcement authorities and/or civilian criminal proceedings may still be eligible for selection for promotion, but the Army Reserve retains discretion regarding actual promotion. In this case, relevant Army Reserve leaders will monitor the ongoing civilian proceedings and make further decisions at the appropriate time.”
The military can place holds on promotions if a criminal case in a federal or state court is pending against the officer, federal law states.
Ravnsborg, South Dakota’s top law enforcement official and a Republican, is accused of fatally striking 55-year-old Joseph Boever, who was on the shoulder of a rural highway on the night of Sept. 12, 2020, authorities said.
Ravnsborg faces three misdemeanor charges: careless driving, driving out of his lane and operating a motor vehicle while on the phone, although prosecutors have said he was not on his phone during the crash. Ravnsborg was using it about one minute prior to when his Ford Taurus made deadly impact, prosecutors said. Each charge carries up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, officials said.
The case has drawn ire from some law enforcement groups and Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who have called on Ravnsborg to resign. Ravnsborg has rebuked calls to step down.
A call to Ravnsborg’s attorney, Timothy Rensch, went unreturned on Tuesday. A woman who picked up the phone at Ravnsborg’s office directed the call to Michael Deaver. Deaver identified himself as spokesman for Ravnsborg in matters pertaining to his criminal case.
Deaver downplayed the military’s position regarding Ravnsborg’s possible promotion. Deaver said that, instead, Ravnsborg is just going through the promotion process. Deaver also noted that Ravnsborg’s charges are misdemeanors.
“The Army certainly knew about all this and still” put him up for promotion, Deaver said. “And now it’s going to go through the cycles, as it should.”
When he was asked if Ravnsborg is confident he will eventually be promoted to colonel, Deaver said, “Yes.”
Ravnsborg did not appear last month in his initial court hearing in Pierre, South Dakota. His defense attorney, Rensch, pleaded not guilty — a customary defendant plea during a first hearing — on Ravnsborg’s behalf.
Investigators looked into the circumstances of the crash for five months, prosecutors said. They acknowledged there were remaining questions but were unable to levy more serious criminal charges, such as vehicular homicide or manslaughter, officials said.
Ravnsborg was elected to his first term in 2018.
He initially told authorities he thought he had struck a deer or other large animal while driving home to Pierre from a Republican fundraiser. Ravnsborg said he searched the unlit area with a cellphone flashlight and didn’t realize he killed a man until the next day when he returned to the crash scene on U.S. 14., officials said.