Former Gov. Bill Janklow pardoned his son-in-law in 2002 for three drunk-driving and marijuana possession convictions, according to documents unsealed Thursday on orders from South Dakota’s highest court.
All together, 218 previously sealed pardons were made public, after the practice of keeping such actions secret was challenged by news organizations. All but four of the pardons were issued by Janklow.
In an interview with Associated Press, Janklow said he had no idea the pardons could not be legally sealed and that feels “heartsick” for people whose pardon information has been released. Janklow said he pardoned his son-in-law after he assured the governor he had turned his life around.
Janklow was elected to Congress in 2002 but resigned last year after being convicted of manslaughter in an auto accident that killed a motorcyclist. He served 100 days in jail and was released last week.
Among the records released Thursday was Janklow’s 2002 pardon of William Gordon Haugen II, who is married to Janklow’s daughter, Shonna. The pardon covered drunk-driving convictions in 1983 and in 1997, and a 1993 conviction for marijuana possession.
Janklow initially refused comment Thursday when reached at his home, but later gave his first interview since being released from jail. He said he pardoned Haugen after he promised that he would go straight.
“My son-in-law did things when he was a younger person that he paid for. He came to me and asked if I would clean things up because he wanted to go to law school. I said, ‘Is this all behind you?’ and he said, ‘So help me God, it’s behind me.’ I said, ‘Are you ever going to embarrass me or anybody else?’ He said, ‘Never,’ and so I did it, and he’s just finished his first year in law school and is a very good student.”
Calls to Haugen’s home were not immediately returned.
The pardons were made public after a legal dispute that began when the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper asked for the names of those Janklow had pardoned from 1995 to 2002 during his last two terms as governor.