‘Remorseful’ Janklow Gets 100 Days in Jail

Times Staff Writer

William J. Janklow, the former U.S. congressman who resigned his seat after being convicted of second-degree manslaughter, was sentenced Thursday to serve 100 days in county jail.

Circuit Court Judge Rodney Steele ordered Janklow to surrender himself to the Minnehaha County Correction Center in Sioux Falls on Feb. 7. After 30 days, Janklow will be allowed to leave the jail for 10 hours a day, six days a week, to perform community service.

Saying that Janklow “is truly remorseful” and that he will suffer a “special humiliation not encountered by a private citizen,” Steele issued a suspended imposition of sentence. That means that if the former lawmaker successfully completes his jail time and three-year probation, the record of the felony conviction will be sealed -- effectively removing it from his record.

“I understand. I killed somebody,” Janklow, 64, told the judge in a voice so quiet it could barely be heard in the back of the crowded courtroom. “I can’t be punished more than I’m punishing myself.”


Steele ordered Janklow to pay the county $50 for each day of his incarceration and more than $5,400 in penalties. He also will lose his driver’s license during the time he is jailed or on probation.

In early December, a jury in Janklow’s hometown of Flandreau convicted the politician of recklessly speeding, running a stop sign and killing Randolph E. Scott, a 55-year-old motorcyclist from Minnesota. Hours later, the state’s then-lone congressman announced he would resign.

With that, Janklow -- also a former state attorney general and governor -- signaled the end of a political career in South Dakota that had stretched over 30 years.

His attorneys have filed a motion seeking a new trial. A hearing is set for Feb. 10.

Legal experts noted that because South Dakota does not have mandatory minimum sentencing laws, Steele had wide latitude in setting Janklow’s punishment.

An Associated Press review of court documents found that 40 people in the state had been found guilty of second-degree manslaughter since 1989, and that 32 of those had served some time behind bars. The average term for those sent to a county detention center was six months.

The former congressman’s habit of speeding is legendary. He joked about it when he was governor in a 1999 State of the State address: “Bill Janklow speeds when he drives -- shouldn’t, but he does. 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 got 12 speeding tickets from 1990 to 1994. He did not receive another ticket in the state after he was elected to his third term as governor in 1994.

The longtime politician even referred to that habit Thursday.

During his political career, Janklow told the judge: “I had a lot of places to go, and a lot of things to do. I’m not trying to make excuses. I’m just telling you that’s reality.”

Steele said that in making his sentencing decision, he weighed Janklow’s past “careless operation and open disregard” of traffic laws against his public service record -- as well as the many family members and supporters who sent letters to the court on his behalf.

For nearly two hours Thursday, witnesses ranging from an elderly widow to a political lobbyist spoke passionately about Janklow’s generosity and selflessness.

Steven L. Zinter, a South Dakota Supreme Court justice who had recused himself in the Janklow case, detailed how his friend was riddled with “remorse and grief” in the weeks after the August accident. And Kara Dougherty, a childhood friend of the Janklow family, tearfully described how the former politician had paid for her braces and had covered the medical bills for her mother’s cancer surgery.

Even Terry Johnson, a close friend of Scott’s who was riding with him at the time of the accident, took the stand on Janklow’s behalf. Dressed in black and talking in a brusque tone, Johnson said he had spoken with Janklow on the phone.

“I don’t see any valid purpose for him to spend an extended period of time incarcerated,” Johnson said.

Prosecutor Roger W. Ellyson, who did not offer any witnesses Thursday, characterized Janklow’s defense as “goofy” and his driving history as “extremely awful.”

After Steele announced the sentence, both the Janklow and Scott families rushed out of the courthouse. Brushing the gently falling snow from their hair, they slipped into their vehicles and drove away. Scott’s family members did not comment, but Johnson said: “I’m satisfied. And I think the Scotts are too.”

This week, Scott’s family filed a civil lawsuit in state court in Minneapolis, seeking “in excess of $50,000" from Janklow; lawyers for the family said they planned to ask for millions of dollars in damages.

At the time of the accident, Janklow was on a two-day trip crisscrossing the state to attend meetings and at least one public celebration.

He left an event in Aberdeen honoring Korean War veterans and was on his way home to Brandon when he ran a stop sign and collided with Scott’s motorcycle on a back road south of Flandreau.

If a court ruled that Janklow was acting as a public figure at the time of the accident, the civil case would be moved to federal court and the government would have to pay any damages ordered.

Janklow and his attorneys declined to comment on the matter Thursday.