An investigator in South Dakota has wrapped up an investigation into Gov. Kristi Noem possibly misusing a state airplane.
Hughes County State’s Attorney Jessica LaMie said in a statement to news outlets on Oct. 25 that the probe uncovered “no facts to support a criminal prosecution under current law.”
“There is no basis to pursue these matters further,” she added.
A complaint about Noem possibly misusing a state airplane was lodged with the state’s Government Accountability Board and the board asked South Dakota Attorney General Mark Vargo to investigate it.
LaMie was tasked with leading the investigation following a recusal by Vargo, who was appointed by Noem.
“In order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, Attorney General Mark Vargo has requested that supervision of the investigation and any charging decisions will be undertaken by Jessica LaMie,” Vargo said in September.
Vargo’s office declined to comment on LaMie’s conclusion.
“An independent prosecutor has confirmed what we have known all along. This was nothing but a political attack in retaliation from a disgraced attorney general who killed a man, lied about it and tried to cover it up,” Ian Fury, a spokesman for Noem’s campaign, said in a statement. “Governor Noem did the right thing calling on him to resign and remained focused on her job. She is committed to continue to fight for the hard working people of South Dakota.”
The complaint was one of two referred to the board by former South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, a Republican who was impeached after striking a man with his vehicle and leaving the scene. The man died.
State Sen. Reynold Nesiba, a Democrat, had asked Ravnsborg to investigate Noem over her use of a state airplane to fly to events. State law says state aircraft can “be used only in the conduct of state business.”
Noem told reporters in 2021 that she never used a state plane for campaigns.
“Whenever the state airplane is used, it has always been used according to the law,” she said.
The other complaint concerned Noem’s meeting with her daughter, who was seeking an appraiser’s license, and top officials in charge of appraiser’s licenses. The board resolved the complaint by releasing information about an investigation.
State Rep. Jaime Smith, a Democrat, questioned the release of LaMie’s statement ahead of Election Day.
“Isn’t it interesting that two weeks before an election … a State’s Attorney of the Governor’s party makes this announcement?” Smith said. “It doesn’t take an investigation to see the blatant misuse of our plane.”