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Janklow's deadly crash garners 100 days in jail

By Associated Press
Published January 23, 2004

FLANDREAU, S.D. - Bill Janklow, who dominated South Dakota politics for three decades as governor and congressman, was sentenced to 100 days in jail Thursday for a car crash that killed a motorcyclist and ended Janklow's career.

After 30 days behind bars, Janklow will be allowed to leave jail for up to 10 hours a day to perform community service. After he completes his jail term, he will be on probation for three years, during which he will not be allowed to drive.

The 64-year-old Republican was found guilty Dec. 8 of second-degree manslaughter, speeding and running a stop sign in a collision that killed 55-year-old motorcyclist Randy Scott at a rural intersection on Aug. 16.

"If I could change places with him, I would. It's easy for me to say that, but I would," the former congressman told the judge before hearing his sentence.

"All I can say, judge, is I'm sorry for what happened and I wish I could change it," Janklow said, his voice choking.

Janklow said he never tried to excuse his behavior. He said he got a lot of traffic tickets, but none after he was elected to the third of his four terms as governor in 1994.

"While I was governor, I drove fast - really fast. I had a lot of places to go and things to do," he told Judge Rodney Steele.

South Dakota does not require minimum sentences, so Steele was free to impose anything from no jail time and no fines to more than 11 years behind bars and $11,400 in fines.

The judge fined Janklow $5,400 and ordered him to pay $50 a day for the cost of his 100 days in jail, for another $5,000. Janklow was ordered to report to the county jail in Sioux Falls on Feb. 7.

The Scott family said before the sentencing that no one from the family would have any comment. The family's lawyer did not return several phone calls.

Scott's daughter Brandee told KELO-TV of Sioux Falls she didn't feel she should comment because of a wrongful death lawsuit the family filed against Janklow this week, but she said she was satisfied with the sentence.

During the trial in Janklow's hometown, the jury saw him in tears as he described his grief over the crash. The defense argued that Janklow, a diabetic, had not eaten for 18 hours and was suffering a diabetic reaction that left him confused and disoriented.

A prosecutor called the scenario "goofy" and said Janklow concocted it as an excuse for going 71 mph in a 55 mph zone in his Cadillac.

Janklow resigned from the House hours after the verdict.

Janklow was state attorney general in the 1970s before serving 16 years as governor and winning South Dakota's lone House seat in 2002.

Over three decades, Janklow charged ahead with his vision for the state, winning over voters in heavily conservative South Dakota with his tough-talking, often abrasive style.

He made South Dakota a major center for credit-card issuers such as Citibank, saved rail service in most of the state and used inmates to wire schools for high-speed Internet access.

But he also made many enemies over his unwillingness to compromise, his insults and attacks on opponents and his penchant for cutting corners.

Janklow made no secret of his need for speed. He received 12 speeding tickets from 1990 to October 1994, shortly before South Dakotans voted him back into the governor's office.

"Bill Janklow speeds when he drives - shouldn't, but he does," Janklow said in a 1999 speech to the Legislature. "When he gets the ticket he pays it, but if someone told me I was going to jail for two days for speeding, my driving habits would change."

Janklow would have been up for re-election in November. His resignation from Congress became effective Tuesday.

A special election will be held June 1 to pick someone to serve out the remainder of his term, giving Democrats an early chance to pick up a seat in the narrowly divided House. The seat will remain vacant until then.

Republicans will gather today and Saturday to select a candidate. Democrats will meet on March 6 and are expected to tap Stephanie Herseth, who narrowly lost to Janklow in 2002.

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