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The Surreal Story of How a Deadly Crash Upended South Dakota Politics – Vanity Fair



As South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg goes to trial, he has refused calls to step down over a fatal car accident that has confounded residents, split Republicans, and left a grieving family divided in its pursuit of justice.

The diamond-shaped signs are hallmarks of the South Dakota highway, doubling as memorials and warnings. For more than 40 years, the state has placed them at the sites of motorized fatalities, making them disquieting roadside counterparts to the billboards summoning travelers to Wall Drug and other tourist enclaves. There is a bright red X near the uppermost tip and a pair of all-caps messages that force drivers to reckon with their own mortality: “THINK!” commands one side of the sign; “WHY DIE?” asks the other.

The “THINK signs,” as they are known locally, are installed by county highway departments, typically within days of the crash. It isn’t clear how many dot the flat terrain. The South Dakota Department of Transportation says it doesn’t keep records of where the signs are located or for whom they were erected, but that often isn’t required for anyone who has ever lived here. Everyone has a THINK sign story, and everyone knows the story behind the one situated on Highway 14 just outside of Highmore, South Dakota. Adorned with flowers and a wooden cross at its base, the sign there stands in memory of Joseph Paul Boever.

On September 12, 2020, Boever’s truck went into the ditch at around 7:30 p.m. and smashed into a bale of hay. He summoned his cousin Victor Nemec to the scene, and after surveying the damage incurred by the pickup’s front bumper, the two decided to retrieve it in the morning. Nemec recalled dropping off Boever, 55, at his home in Highmore and hearing him say he was going to bed. But shortly before 10:30 p.m., Boever was back in the area, armed with a flashlight and walking along the north shoulder of the road. Family members don’t know exactly why he was there.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was heading toward Pierre that night, capping off what had been a demanding week of travel. Earlier in the evening, Ravnsborg (pronounced “ROUNDS-berg”) was in the town of Redfield to speak at a Lincoln Day dinner. It was the second Republican event Ravnsborg attended in as many days, having appeared at a Lincoln Day dinner in Rapid City held on September 11. Ravnsborg’s two-hour journey from Redfield to Pierre started out routine enough. He called his father, a nightly ritual ever since his mother passed away three years earlier. The call dropped, a common occurrence in a state blanketed by dead zones. And he listened to a broadcast of the Minnesota Twins game, a classic soundtrack for laconic summer drives through the upper Midwest.

As he passed through Highmore, Ravnsborg considered stopping for gas before opting to press on for the final 46 miles to Pierre. It was around there, he said later, that he turned the radio off after hearing the Twins collect the final out in their win over division rival Cleveland several minutes earlier. At 10:20, according to cell phone data obtained by the investigators, he unlocked his phone and signed into his Yahoo email account. From there, Ravnsborg scanned headlines before landing on an article published by a right-wing website about “Riding the Dragon,” a documentary billed as an exposé into the “secret world of Joe Biden and his family’s relationship to China and the sinister business deals that enriched them at America’s expense.” At 10:22, prosecutors determined he locked his phone. A minute later, Ravnsborg veered into the right shoulder, where Boever was walking, sending his head through the windshield.

Highway 14 in Highmore, South Dakota. Photograph by Terry A. Ratzlaff.

What happened in the moments before the crash and in the subsequent 12 hours has consumed South Dakota’s political class, and even caused a rift between two Donald Trump allies. Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican star and potential 2024 contender, urged Ravnsborg, a self-described “pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, pro-business” conservative, to resign. And yet Ravnsborg continues exerting his power in deep red South Dakota and beyond, from joining a 17-state legal effort in December to overturn Trump’s 2020 defeat to teaming up last month with Republican attorneys general hoping to declare a New York state concealed carry gun law unconstitutional. Meanwhile, his predecessor has announced plans to run for attorney general again next year, despite Ravnsborg still being eligible to seek another term.

The case has stirred up questions about how investigations are handled in South Dakota, where virtually everyone is linked by fewer than six degrees of separation. Ravnsborg’s freedom may not be on the line, as prosecutors opted for less severe misdemeanor charges rather than, say, manslaughter. He is expected to plead no contest to two of the three charges, according to a source familiar with the matter, which could allow him to avoid a two-day trial that is scheduled to kick off Thursday. But although he has dodged the most dire of legal consequences, Ravnsborg’s future as a public figure may forever be clouded by a tragedy that has confounded residents, rocked the political establishment, and left a grieving family divided in its pursuit of clarity and justice.

On a steamy morning last month, Nemec and his older brother Nick, a former Democratic state legislator, did what they have done dozens of times since their cousin was killed. Standing at the scene of the crash, the two area farmers assumed the role of forensic analysts, trying to make sense of what happened. Since September, they have acted as dual family spokesmen, determined to hold Ravnsborg accountable in a state where one party dominates and high-ranking officials seem to operate with impunity. South Dakota routinely ranks among the most corrupt state governments in the country, a distinction earned by a pervasive culture of secrecy. “The main reason Nick and I stepped forward is the state of South Dakota has a huge tendency to let people in positions of authority and power get away with a lot of things,” Victor said.

The THINK sign for Boever is positioned next to a cornfield at the bottom of the ditch, parallel to where his body landed after the collision. Three days after the crash, Nick found a swarm of flies hovering over dried blood where the shoulder of the road meets the grass. “I think that’s where the body eventually ended up,” Nick said. Chewing on a piece of straw, he pointed to green and white paint markings from the investigation, denoting the point of impact and location of skid marks.

In his 911 call, which prosecutors said was made less than a minute after the crash, Ravnsborg identified himself as the attorney general before explaining that he “hit something.”

“You hit something?” the dispatcher asked.

“By Highmore. Highmore. And it was in the middle of the road,” Ravnsborg said, clearly rattled.

More than a minute into the call, the dispatcher offered up a potential culprit.

“Okay, do you think it was a deer or something?” she asked.

“I have no idea,” Ravnsborg replied. “Yeah, it could be.”

For South Dakotans, hitting a deer or other wildlife is an experience as common as it is unmistakable, replete with telltale signs—namely animal fur—that were noticeably absent on Ravnsborg’s car. “Hitting animals in South Dakota, whether it’s a raccoon, a deer, a pheasant, we’ve all seen it,” said Nikki Gronli, the vice chair of the state Democratic Party. “It’s pretty rare that you would not know what you hit, and if you didn’t know what you hit and it came through your windshield like that, you weren’t paying attention.”

Image may contain Plant Flower Blossom Sunflower and Rug
Photograph by Terry A. Ratzlaff.

Ravnsborg, who provided his account of events to investigators, declined Vanity Fair’s interview requests and did not respond to written questions. His professed ignorance over what he hit attracted more skepticism when the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, at the behest of Noem, released two videos of him being interviewed by a pair of North Dakota special agents who were brought in to assist with the probe. The first interview, conducted two days after the crash and spanning a little more than an hour, was largely cordial, with Ravnsborg doing most of the talking. In the second interview, held two weeks later and lasting more than two hours, the North Dakota agents were far more pointed. “His face was in your windshield, Jason,” one of the agents said, after noting that Boever’s eyeglasses had been found in Ravnsborg’s car. “Think about that.” The investigators were incredulous that Ravnsborg didn’t realize he had hit a person, and that he failed to notice Boever’s body in the immediate aftermath. “I was in a meeting with a group of investigators and I said, ‘How many of you hit a deer?’ Every single one in that room,” one of the investigators said. “I said, ‘How many of you did not know you hit a deer?’ Every single one of them knew they hit a deer.”

Cell phone data, the investigators said, showed Ravnsborg had walked by the corpse, which was less than two feet off the road and about 60 feet behind where the damaged Ford Taurus was parked. One of the agents said that Boever’s lifeless body, which had been stripped of clothes in the crash, was “lily white” and almost certainly would have been illuminated by the cell phone flashlight Ravnsborg used to search the area. The agents also pointed out that Boever had himself been carrying a flashlight, which wound up on the edge of the grass. When they recreated the scene, the agents said they walked on each side of the road to give Ravnsborg the benefit of the doubt. The flashlight, one said, “was like a beacon.” Throughout the interview, Ravnsborg was emphatic as he repeated a variation of the same line: “I did not know it was a man until the next day.”

The North Dakota agents grilled Ravnsborg on his cell phone use, pressing him to admit that he was distracted at the moment of impact, but prosecutors later asserted that he had locked his phone more than a minute prior to hitting Boever. Back at the scene of the crash, the Nemec brothers didn’t hesitate when asked whether they believed Ravnsborg had an inkling of what he hit. “I think he absolutely did,” Victor said. Victor remains adamant that Ravnsborg “was playing with his phone, drifted onto the shoulder, hit our cousin, and slammed on the brakes.”

Boever’s cousins also question Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek’s handling of the crash. Within 20 minutes of Ravnsborg’s 911 call, Volek was at the scene and prosecutors said he “walked the area.” Nick is convinced it was a perfunctory search. “He knows that when you hit a deer, there’s deer hair all over,” Nick said of Volek. “There was no deer hair on Ravnbsorg’s car because he didn’t hit a deer. They didn’t look.”

Volek, who has been the county sheriff for more than 20 years, declined Vanity Fair’s interview request and did not respond to written questions. He has been criticized for giving seemingly preferential treatment to Ravnsborg. “He’s not much of a sheriff, to tell you the truth,” one Highmore resident told the Argus Leader after the crash. “He’s the kind of sheriff where if you’re drinking and driving, he’ll just give you a ride home.” Victor Nemec recalled one time when he hit a deer around the same area where his cousin was killed and Volek gave him a lift. “I think our sheriff maybe dropped the ball the night of the accident, but I don’t think that was any actual corruption,” Victor said.

On the night in question, Volek arrived at the scene before giving Ravnsborg a ride to his nearby home. There, Volek loaned Ravnsborg one of his personal vehicles to drive to Pierre.

The sheriff did not conduct a sobriety test on Ravnsborg, who said he hadn’t consumed any alcohol that night; a blood draw taken 15 hours after the crash found no alcohol in his system. In Volek, Ravnsborg has perhaps the most compelling defense to his claim that he didn’t spot the body. “The sheriff’s on the scene at least twice and so was the tow truck driver,” Ravnsborg told the North Dakota agents. “And none of them thought it was suspicious that it was not a deer.”

For all the lingering questions, it had been broadly accepted as fact that Ravnsborg was outside the lane of travel when he hit Boever somewhere on the shoulder off the road. The prosecutors concluded as such in charging Ravnsborg with three misdemeanors, including “improper lane driving.” But Ravnsborg’s attorney fired a missile at that narrative last month in a motion disputing that the impact occurred on the shoulder and alleging that Boever was suicidal. The motion claimed Boever was an alcoholic and had abused a prescription drug known to cause “suicidal ideation.” Its biggest bombshell came by way of Barnabas Nemec, the younger brother of Nick and Victor, who was quoted as saying that Boever had told him in December of 2019 that “his preferred method of suicide would be to throw himself in front of a car.” “I believe with a very high degree of confidence Joe committed suicide by throwing himself into the path of a speeding car,” Barnabas told law enforcement, according to the motion.

A memorial on the side of Highway 14 at the site Joseph Paul Boever's body was found.
A memorial on the side of Highway 14 at the site Joseph Paul Boever’s body was found.Photograph by Terry A. Ratzlaff.

Nick and Victor were blindsided, saying they didn’t know about their brother’s claim until the motion was made public last month. “It was a shock,” Victor said. Boever had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, while struggling at times with bouts of depression and alcoholism. He had also separated with his wife, Jenny Boever. But Nick and Victor said their cousin was in a better place in the weeks leading up to the crash. “I can tell you this: My cousin Joe had never spoken to me seriously about suicide as an option for himself,” Victor said. “Everyone at some point in their life discusses suicide in some manner, but it was never a discussion that, you know, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’ Everyone at some point might say something like, ‘If I was going to commit suicide, I would do it this way. What’s the best way?’ But he had never spoken to me personally that he was going to do it.”

Barnabas, who grew up in the Highmore area and now lives in Taylor, Michigan, made the claim in February in an email to the prosecutors in the case. “I’ve known Joe since childhood and we bonded in college some 20 years ago as young adults. Joe was more than a well-read, unsettled intellectual,” he wrote. “He was an admitted alcoholic with a brooding depressive streak unparalleled by anyone else I have ever known.” Oddly, Barnabas told me his motivations for coming forward were not to exonerate Ravnsborg, but rather to prove that the attorney general knew he had killed Boever. In the same email, Barnabas wrote that, because he is certain his cousin committed suicide, he likewise believes Ravnsborg “has been lying about it from the start, going so far as to let the public believe he carelessly drove off the road and hit Joe.” A month after he sent the email, Barnabas was interviewed by North Dakota agents in Highmore.

Barnabas told me his intention was not to undermine his family, and he is grateful that Nick and Victor commandeered the narrative from Noem, whom he believes “was greasing up the situation for political gain.” But his claims have left Nick and Victor frustrated. At a hearing in Pierre last month, Judge John Brown, who is presiding over the case, granted the defense’s motion for an in-camera review of Boever’s psychiatric and medical records. Emily Sovell, a state’s attorney and the lead prosecutor in the case, argued at the hearing that Boever’s “state of mind is not part of our case,” stressing that Ravnsborg is only charged with traffic violations. (Brown ruled this week that Ravnsborg cannot use Boever’s mental health records at trial.)

Sovell, a law school classmate of Ravnsborg, announced the three second-class misdemeanor charges in February: operating a vehicle while using a mobile device; improper lane driving; and careless driving. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $500 and 30 days in jail. Sovell and Michael Moore, a state’s attorney who is assisting with the prosecution, defended the relatively light charges, explaining that vehicular homicide in South Dakota requires the presence of drugs or alcohol. Despite the delay in the blood draw, Sovell said “a very, very thorough investigation” concluded that Ravnsborg was not under the influence, and that he did not meet the recklessness standard required for a manslaughter charge. With a felony charge off the table, Moore said the “victim’s remedy is in civil court, not criminal court.” Jenny Boever has planned to file a civil lawsuit, originally hiring Rapid City attorney Greg Eiesland until a potential conflict of interest caused him to recuse himself. “You might find that the investigation and criminal prosecution may have been handled much differently had the driver been a Native American rather than the attorney general,” Eiesland said. “Just saying.”

The Iowa-born Ravnsborg built his career on the South Dakota roads, traversing the state and making appearances at the type of events that filled his pre-crash itinerary. For someone aiming to achieve political success in those parts, he checked pretty much all of the boxes: graduate of the University of South Dakota School of Law, a factory of governors, judges, and attorneys general; a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves and a Bronze Star recipient; unflinchingly conservative. But all of those credentials played a secondary role in his rise to simply outhustling would-be rivals. In a state with fewer than a million people, status can be attained simply by showing up. “He went to every Republican women’s luncheon in this state,” said a senior South Dakota Republican. “Anybody that got three Republicans together, he showed up.”

Ravnsborg employed that strategy in 2014, when he launched a quixotic U.S. Senate bid. It was his first time running for political office, and he was more than a little green. “He was clearly in over his head, just in political terms,” the senior Republican said. “He didn’t know how to campaign, couldn’t raise any money, didn’t know anybody, but he went to every function for a year.” Ravnsborg finished fifth in a five-person field for the Republican nomination, garnering less than 3% of the vote. Far from puncturing his political aspirations, the last-place finish served as a springboard.

When he ran for attorney general in 2018, Ravnsborg was a partner at a law firm in Yankton, South Dakota, and a volunteer deputy state’s attorney for nearby Union County. “Jason worked harder than any other candidate by far,” said Jerry Miller, the state’s attorney for Union County. “He understood the system better, he developed the best and most prepared grassroot support system. Jason builds networks better than anyone I’ve ever met.” On Election Day, Ravnsborg claimed victory with 55% of the vote, while Noem, with just over 50%, headed to the governor’s mansion.

Image may contain Outdoors Nature Flag Symbol Grass Plant and Countryside
Photograph by Terry A. Ratzlaff.

In the years following her narrow victory in 2018, Noem has enjoyed a meteoric rise. An enduring image of her political ascent came during last year’s Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore, where she feted Trump at the monument’s first fireworks display in a decade. Ravnsborg, too, grabbed a slice of the accompanying publicity with an op-ed published on Fox News’ website that hailed Trump’s visit as a triumph over “cancel culture.” But Ravnsborg was decidedly less combative in an appearance on Fox & Friends that same day, often gazing down into his lap to read from prepared notes. He had the MAGA script, but none of the flair.

Noem is more at home in front of the camera. Her plow-ahead approach to the pandemic revolted health officials and Democrats as the state, despite its small and low-density population, racked up an avoidably high death toll. But it endeared her to Trump’s legion of supporters, not to mention Trump himself. A little more than a month after the celebration at Mount Rushmore, Noem landed a prime-time speaking slot at the Republican National Convention. For much of last year, she could be found crisscrossing the country, campaigning for Trump in New Hampshire and appearing at a Texas rodeo hoisting an American flag on horseback. (It has become her signature move, arriving earlier this month at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the same manner.) She entered 2020 with an underwater approval rating, but by June, those numbers had improved dramatically, with a majority of constituents approving of her response to the pandemic and her overall performance as governor.

But just as Noem was gaining traction locally and nationally, winning over voters at home and earning Trump’s imprimatur, Ravnsborg’s crash upended the state’s political scene. In a press conference on September 15, 2020, Noem promised “an extra level of transparency and accountability” in the investigation, saying she had instructed the Department of Public Safety to release findings to the public. Less than a week after charges were brought against Ravnsborg in February, and hours after Noem called on him to resign, videos of the interviews were posted on the Department of Public Safety’s website.

Attorneys on both sides of the Ravnsborg case were taken aback by the release of the videos. Sovell and Moore had urged Noem to not make the footage public, while Ravnsborg’s attorney Tim Rensch criticized the governor for an “extremely unprecedented, and unusual early release of information regarding a criminal investigation.” Judge Brown granted Rensch’s motion to have the videos removed from the Department of Public Safety’s website, and slapped a gag order on “any member of state government” from releasing additional evidence related to the investigation.

The same day the videos appeared online, articles of impeachment were filed against Ravnsborg by Rep. Will Mortenson, a freshman Republican member of the legislature. In a bipartisan show of force, the articles were cosponsored by two senior House members: Majority Leader Kent Peterson and Minority Leader Jamie Smith. The public pressure continued to mount against Ravnsborg that week, with a trio of law enforcement groups—the South Dakota Fraternal Order of Police, the South Dakota Chiefs’ of Police Association, and the South Dakota Sheriffs’ Association—issuing a joint statement calling on him to resign. But Judge Brown’s order brought impeachment to a halt, as legislators decided to pause the proceedings. “We got the cart before the horse just a little bit on that,” said Smith.

The video release prompted other legislators to question Noem’s motives. “In my opinion, Gov. Noem was working behind the scenes to get rid of the AG so she could put her own person in there,” said Republican state House Rep. Phil Jensen. “This manifested itself in the form of a freshman representative trying to stir everyone up and lynch him when he hadn’t even been indicted yet.” Miller, the Union County state’s attorney, also shares that view. “The significant factor in this case has to do with the status of the driver and a clear agenda of the governor,” Miller said, while also criticizing the law enforcement groups for calling on Ravnsborg to resign. “Jason was sober and freely cooperated with law enforcement over and over again. I see no ill intent in any action taken by Mr. Ravnsborg.” 

For Angela Kennecke, one of the state’s best-known news anchors and perhaps its most tireless investigative reporter, the release of the videos was a shock, given the near total lack of transparency that typifies South Dakota’s government. In more than 30 years on the job, Kennecke has been stymied repeatedly in her efforts to get the state to disclose just about anything. “I wondered if it was for political reasons because it was so unprecedented,” she said of the Ravnsborg videos.

A spokesman for Noem said her “mission from the very start was to ensure a transparent investigation so that justice could be done.”

“Governor Noem called for the Attorney General to resign solely because of the facts that the criminal investigation uncovered,” the spokesman said. “A local prosecutor has in fact charged the Attorney General with three separate crimes in connection with that evening’s events.”

Image may contain Field Nature Grassland Outdoors Countryside and Land
Photograph by Terry A. Ratzlaff.

The murky political environment has fueled a perception throughout the state that its leaders are not always on the level. “It’s a huge good old boy network that has gotten worse every year,” Victor said, invoking a phrase often used in reference to the state government, in which a cozy atmosphere enables the same coterie of Republicans to pass through a revolving door. South Dakota’s isolation and sparse population have provided ideal conditions for cronyism, while a steadfast commitment to secrecy has helped neutralize members of the state’s press corps like Kennecke. “It seems like the smaller the government, the easier it is for corruption to happen,” Victor said. Recent scandals have only contributed to that dodgy reputation. South Dakota’s abuse of the EB-5 visa program caused millions of dollars to go missing from the state treasury, prompting a federal investigation in 2013 that ultimately led to the peculiar suicide of a former cabinet secretary at the center of the scheme.

Two years later, questions swirled again over the state’s handling of federal grant money designated for middle and high schools in impoverished areas. Like EB-5, the scandal took a grisly turn when a man accused of embezzling nearly $1 million designated for Native American students in South Dakota killed his wife, four children, and set his house ablaze before turning the gun on himself. The murder-suicide was made even stranger when it was revealed that a safe in the family’s home went unrecovered after the fire, with state officials surmising that it was either destroyed, moved, or stolen.

Ravnsborg’s case doesn’t seamlessly fit that shady pattern. It may be less shaped by small government corruption and more by a relaxed small-town culture, the kind wherein a sheriff offers you a ride if your car broke down or you had too much to drink. Likewise, it is difficult to say that Ravnsborg has been a beneficiary of the “good old boy network,” considering the swift mobilization against him by the state’s political elite.

What is clear, for now anyway, is that Ravnsborg isn’t going anywhere, having thus far defied all calls to step down. Mike Deaver, a public relations specialist from Salt Lake City hired as Ravnsborg’s private spokesman, said his client “has never intended to resign and won’t based on the current status of the case.” As it currently stands, Deaver said Ravnsborg “plans on running again but will evaluate after the final court date.” If he does pursue reelection next year, Ravnsborg will face a challenge from former attorney general Marty Jackley, who announced his plans to run for his old job in March, less than a week after the impeachment filing. Ravnsborg and Jackley would vie for delegates at the party’s nominating convention, placing the incumbent in a battle against both his predecessor and the South Dakota political establishment.

The walls of Jackley’s law office in Pierre are ornamented with taxidermy: walleye (the state fish), ring-necked pheasant (the state bird), and a whitetail buck. In his waiting room, there is a framed illustration of him arguing before the Supreme Court in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, which upheld a law enabling the state to collect taxes on out-of-state businesses that sell to its residents. Jackley ran for governor in 2018 when his second full term as attorney general was winding down, ultimately losing a contentious Republican primary to Noem. The bitter nature of the campaign was enough for Jackley to withhold his endorsement of Noem until two weeks before the general election. But Jackley said the two are now on good terms, and he acknowledged that he spoke to Noem about his planned run, although he wouldn’t delve into detail. He did say he was encouraged to run by “hundreds” of people across the state, a group that included former attorneys general, state’s attorneys, and sheriffs. Some members of the general public even stopped by his office to urge him to give it a go. “I was receiving a ton of phone calls, emails of encouragement,” Jackley said. “It was pretty humbling.”

Image may contain Road Freeway Highway Asphalt and Tarmac
Highway 14 in Highmore, South Dakota.  Photograph by Terry A. Ratzlaff.

The public and political reaction to the crash has been driven by a fundamental and, perhaps, ultimately unknowable question, one that will cast a shadow long after Ravnsborg emerges from the criminal and potential civil litigation: Was he really unaware that he hit another man?

Ravnsborg drove back to Highmore the morning following the crash with his chief of staff, Tim Bormann, to return Volek’s car. After filling the vehicle with gas, they pulled over on the north side of the highway to search the scene of the collision, where wreckage was still strewn about the road. Ravnsborg went west along the ditch and Bormann walked east. Within moments, Ravnsborg said he made a shocking discovery. “I just came to Tim and said ‘Tim, Tim, Tim, you gotta come here. I found a body,’” he said in one of the interviews. The agent said he polled his colleagues on that detail too.

“I asked them, ‘How many of you went back to look at the deer, to find the deer?’” he said. “And none of them did.”

“Well, yeah, but most of them probably found the deer or left the scene from there,” Ravnsborg replied. “I thought I was doing the right thing getting gas to give back to the sheriff. And I said, ‘Well, let’s look for the deer.’”

“But I guess to my credit, you know, I’m also like, ‘Well, if I didn’t find him how long would he have laid there,’” he added.

Instead of calling 911, Ravnsborg and Bormann decided to leave Boever’s body and drive to Volek’s home, less than half of a mile from the crash site.“We did leave the site without calling 911, but my thought process was this is the quickest way I can get the sheriff, to go to his house,” Ravnsborg said. “He lives right there.”

When it comes to the central mystery of the ordeal, Ravnsborg has been forceful and consistent. “I did not know it was a man until the next day,” he told the North Dakota agents. “I’ll go to my grave saying that.”

But should that be true, Ravnsborg’s chosen course of action after the crash was one guaranteed to arouse suspicion. “I think everyone is very colored by the post-accident reaction. He got in a car and he drove away,” said a former gubernatorial chief of staff in the state. “If he responds in the moment and has the sheriff run it down and they find out that he hit a guy, I do feel like people’s reaction to this would be different. What flips people over the edge is that he left the scene.”

This article has been updated with a statement from Governor Kristi Noem.

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Renzo to Head KCL's Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law – Daily Nous



Massimo Renzo has been appointed as the new Yeoh Tiong Lay Chair and Director of the Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law at King’s College London (KCL).

Professor Renzo, previously a professor of Politics, Law, and Philosophy at KCL and the acting director of the Yeoh Centre, was selected for the endowed chair and directorship following an open search to fill the position. He works in legal, moral and political philosophy, and has written on topics such as political authority, just war, humanitarian intervention, human rights, philosophy of criminal law, consent, and manipulation, among others. You can browse his writings here.

The Yeoh Centre was founded in 2014 with the aim of exploring “major issues in law and politics through the lens of philosophy.” Its previous director was John Tasioulas (Oxford). You can learn more about it here.

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Politics Briefing: Quebec introduces legislation to ban pandemic-related protests near hospitals, other facilities – The Globe and Mail




Quebec’s Premier says he is taking a cautious approach to proceeding with legislation to outlaw COVID-19-related protests within 50 metres of hospitals, vaccination sites and testing centres, among other facilities.

“It’s never easy to say you cannot go on the street,” Premier François Legault told a news conference on Thursday, responding to a media question about why he had decided to proceed now with Bill 105.

The legislation, with details on prospective fines, was tabled Thursday by the province’s Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault in response to recent anti-vaccine protests outside such facilities.

“It’s not something that you can do every day. You have to be careful. We want to make sure that people will not win, trying to say that the law is unacceptable, and we cannot enforce it,” said Mr. Legault.

“We wanted to do it correctly and I think that also we need to have the support of all the other parties, and I think that it’s the right time.”

Provisions of the bill will cease to have effect when the public health emergency declared in March, 2020, ends.

More details on the legislation here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


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LIMITED DIVERSITY IN TORY CAUCUS – CBC has crunched the the numbers, and concluded that the vast majority of the MPs making up the new Conservative caucus — nearly 95 per cent — are white, even as the country’s racial makeup is diversifying. Before this election, 9 per cent of Tory MPs were BIPOC. Story here,

LPC CANDIDATE ACCUSED OF TAKING RIVAL PAMPHLET – A Calgary resident says he has doorbell security camera footage showing Liberal candidate George Chahal, the night before the election, approach his house in the Calgary Skyview riding and remove an opponent’s campaign flyer before replacing it with one of his own. He posted the footage to Facebook, which has now received thousands of views. Story here.

FORMER LPC CANDIDATE TO SERVE AS INDEPENDENT – Kevin Vuong, who won the Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York as a Liberal candidate, said he will serve as an Independent MP, days after his party said he will not sit as a member of the caucus. Story here.

TWITTER BERNIER BAN – Twitter restricted People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier’s account, preventing him from posting any new messages for 12 hours after he used the platform to encourage his supporters to “play dirty” with journalists covering his campaign. From CBC. Story here.


KENNEY FENDS OFF LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE – Jason Kenney appears to have quelled another challenge from within his own caucus. A non-confidence vote against the Alberta Premier was withdrawn on Wednesday, but he committed to an earlier-than-planned leadership review, to be held well in advance of Alberta’s 2023 general election. Don Braid of The Calgary Herald writes here on how Mr. Kenney survived this fight against his leadership.

NEW CHARGES AGAINST FORMER SNC-LAVALIN EXECS – SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and two of its former executives are facing new criminal charges related to a bridge contract in Montreal nearly 20 years ago, plunging the Canadian engineering giant into another legal maelstrom as it tries to rebuild its business after years of crisis. Story here.

FORD LOOKING FOR CHILDCARE DEAL – Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he wants to make a child-care deal with the federal government. The province has acknowledged it was in discussions with Ottawa about a potential agreement into the last hours before the federal election was called in August.


“Private meetings,” according to an advisory from the Prime Minister’s Office.


No schedules released for party leaders.


Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on whether this is the end of majority governments in Canada:But in Canada, for one reason or another, the grip of two-party politics has been broken – irrevocably, it seems. As a result, something else that is not supposed to happen under first past the post has been happening, with remarkable frequency: minority governments. This is not just the second straight federal election to produce a Parliament without a majority party: it is the fifth in the past seven, 11th in the past 22.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on why, if any federal leader should be stepping down, it’s the likeable Jagmeet Singh: ‘Strange business, politics. While a bit short of a majority, Justin Trudeau wins a third successive election by a large margin in the seat count. Yet some critics say he should be put out to pasture. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh suffered a drubbing in the 2019 election, losing almost half his party’s seats. With much higher expectations, he did badly again in Monday’s vote, electing (pending mail-in vote counts) only one more member. Yet hardly anyone says a word.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on why the knives are out for Erin O’Toole, but not Jagmeet Singh: “Theoretically, Mr. O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh should be in the same boat. Both failed to channel national frustration over a pandemic election call and turn it into material support; both delivered underwhelming results. But Mr. Singh, who led a campaign that saw the party claim 25 seats as of this writing – just one more than it held before – doesn’t appear to be in immediate jeopardy of losing his job. The saga of former NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who was turfed by his party when the NDP won 44 seats in 2015 (that is, about 75 per cent better than it did on Monday), offers an explanation for why.”

Jen Gerson (Maclean’s) on why Tories should not “do that stupid thing” they’re thinking of doing: “If you dump your affable, moderate, centrist leader at the first opportunity because he didn’t crack the 905 on his first try, and you replace him with someone who will chase Maxime Bernier’s vanishing social movement like a labradoodle running after the wheels of a mail truck, you will wind up confirming every extant fear and stereotype this crowd already holds about you and your party.”

Steve Paikin (TVO) on advice for Justin Trudeau, inspired by the political experiences of former Ontario premier Bill Davis: I think if Davis were still alive, he’d tell the current Prime Minister: “A lot of people are underestimating you right now. They think you’re damaged because you called this snap election, and it didn’t work out as you’d hoped. Well, I’ve been there. My advice, Prime Minister, is to reach out. Be more collegial and less ideological and adversarial. Establish a good working relationship with your opponents.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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Japan’s ruling party puts legacy of Abenomics in focus.



Japan’s widening wealth gap has emerged as a key issue in a ruling party leadership contest that will decide who becomes the next prime minister, with candidates forced to reassess the legacy of former premier Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” policies.

Under Abenomics, a mix of expansionary fiscal and monetary policies and a growth strategy deployed by Abe in 2013, share prices and corporate profits boomed, but a government survey published earlier this year showed households hardly benefited.

Mindful of the flaws of Abenomics, frontrunners in the Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership race – vaccination minister Taro Kono and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida – have pledged to focus more on boosting household wealth.

“What’s important is to deliver the benefits of economic growth to a wider population,” Kishida said on Thursday. “We must create a virtual cycle of growth and distribution.”

But the candidates are thin on details over how to do this with Japan’s economic policy toolkit depleted by years of massive monetary and fiscal stimulus.

Kono calls for rewarding companies that boost wages with a cut in corporate tax, while Kishida wants to expand Japan’s middle class with targeted payouts to low-income households.

The winner of the LDP leadership vote on Sept. 29 is assured of becoming Japan’s next prime minister because of the party’s parliamentary majority. Two women – Sanae Takaichi, 60, a former internal affairs minister, and Seiko Noda, 61, a former minister for gender equality – are the other candidates in a four-way race.

Parliament is expected to convene on Oct. 4 to vote for a successor to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who announced his decision to quit less than a year after taking over from Abe.

A government survey, conducted once every five years and released in February, has drawn increasing attention to trends in inequality during Abe’s time.

Shigeto Nagai, head of Japan economics at Oxford Economics, said the survey revealed “the stark failure of Abenomics to boost household wealth through asset price growth.”

Average wealth among households fell by 3.5% from 2014 to 2019 with only the top 10% wealthiest enjoying an increase, according to a survey conducted once every five years.

Japanese households’ traditional aversion to risk meant they did not benefit from the stock market rally, with the balance of their financial assets down 8.1% in the five years from 2014, the survey showed.

“We think the new premier will need to consider the failures of Abenomics and recognize the myth that reflation policies relying on aggressive monetary easing will not solve all Japan’s problems without tackling endemic structural issues,” Nagai said.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda defended Abenomics and said the pandemic, not slow wage growth, was mainly to blame for sluggish consumption.

“Unlike in the United States and Europe, Japanese firms protected jobs even when the pandemic hit,” Kuroda said when asked why the trickle-down to households has been weak.

“Wage growth has been fairly modest, but that’s not the main reason consumption is weak,” he told a briefing on Wednesday. “As the pandemic subsides, consumption will likely strengthen.”


(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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