Noem taps impeachment prosecutor to replace attorney general

·2 min read
FILE - South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 25, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Former South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravsborg has asked a state ethics board to press for an investigation Monday, June 27, 2022, of Noem. Ravnsborg blames the governor for his impeachment and removal from office last week for his conduct surrounding a fatal crash in 2020. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has appointed the lead prosecutor in the Senate impeachment trial of former Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to fill the remainder of Ravnsborg's term.

Noem's interim appointment of Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo was effective Tuesday.

She pushed for Ravnsborg, a first-term fellow Republican, to step down days after he struck and killed a pedestrian with his car in 2020, and later pushed for his impeachment. Ravnsborg was ultimately convicted last week of two impeachment counts and was removed from office.

“Mark Vargo returns integrity, experience and stability to the Attorney General’s Office,” Noem said in a statement.

Vargo will serve until January, when the winner of the November election is sworn in. Marty Jackley, the Republican nominee and Ravnsborg's predecessor, has Noem's endorsement. Jackley served as the state’s attorney general for about a decade and the state’s U.S. attorney for three years.

Ravnsborg was removed from office last week after the Senate heard testimony about his conduct in the September 2020 crash that killed Joseph Boever, who was struck as he walked along a rural highway. Ravnsborg had announced shortly before his impeachment trial that he would not seek a second term. The Senate also voted to prohibit him from holding public office again.

Ravnsborg appeared before a state ethics board Monday to press for an investigation of Noem, the person he blames for his impeachment.

As attorney general, Ravnsborg last year filed a pair of complaints against Noem to the state’s Government Accountability Board alleging she abused the powers of her office by interfering in a state agency as it evaluated her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license and by misusing state airplanes.

The board, which is comprised of retired judges, has not decided whether to investigate Noem, who is running for reelection after a first term in which she has gained national prominence in her party and is widely considered to be a White House aspirant in 2024.

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