FLANDREAU, S.D. – South Dakota Congressman and former Governor William J. (Bill) Janklow was charged with one felony and three misdemeanors nearly two weeks after he was involved in the death of a motorcycle driver, the result of a traffic accident.
Moody County State’s Attorney Bill Ellingson charged Janklow with 2nd degree manslaughter, a felony. Ellingson also handed down the charges of failure to stop, traveling 75 in a 55 zone and reckless driving, all misdemeanors.
The felony charge carries a possible sentence of up to 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Janklow was the driver of a car involved in the accident that took the life of a Hardwick, Minn. man on Aug. 16. He wasn’t charged until Aug. 29 after an extensive investigation.
Evidence shows that Janklow ran a stop sign while driving a 1995 Cadillac between 70 and 75 miles an hour, according to the Highway Patrol. Janklow was traveling south on a secondary road, just south of Flandreau, home of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, and Randy Scott, 55, was driving a motorcycle westbound without a required stop at the posted speed limit when he struck Janklow’s car on the rear door of the driver’s side. Scott was pronounced dead at the scene.
Janklow received injuries to his hand and head, and Russell Janklow, Janklow’s son, said his father was confused while at home the night of the crash. He was diagnosed the next day as having some blood on the brain but the prognosis was for a full recovery.
A passenger in Janklow’s car, Chris Braendlin, a senior staff member was also slightly injured.
Russ Janklow told the news media that he and his father believe he will be charged with something. But manslaughter is not warranted in the case. Janklow can be charged with careless or reckless driving, both misdemeanors, but vehicular homicide is out of the question because it was determined that alcohol was not involved.
The felony charge is not grounds for investigation by a Congressional ethics committee, but should Janklow be convicted the investigation would be certain. Speculation from both political parties, as reported in the Washington Post is that Janklow’s long and checkered political career is over. If the letters to the editor in various state-wide newspapers are any indication, the vast majority of state residents believe he should resign.
A recent state-wide poll found that people were somewhat forgiving and would allow the congressman to remain in office until convicted, then they favored resignation. Governor Mike Rounds would have three months to order a new election to fill the vacancy.
Russ Janklow said on Friday morning that the family would have no more interviews and said there was no mention of resignation after the charges were issued.
Marcella Scott, Scott’s mother said the family thanked the Highway Patrol for its investigation and praised Ellingson for his consideration of the charges, in a prepared statement.
“Although no judge or jury can bring Randy back to us, we view the criminal charges filed today as both reasonable and appropriate,” she stated.
Even though the accident on the rural road near Trent, S.D. has no relationship to his political career, the two are somewhat parallel as both reflect the energy and zeal at which he conducted himself in his work.
Janklow is the state’s only four-term governor. He was first elected in 1978 and served two terms. He was re-elected in 1994 after an eight-year hiatus. He started his political career in 1973 when he was appointed assistant attorney general for the state. The next year he ran against the man who appointed him and won election.
While assistant attorney general his job was to prosecute AIM members following an incident in Custer, S.D. that involved Russell Means and Dennis Banks. A riot and protest erupted after the state failed to file charges against a local rancher in the death of Wesley Bad Heart Bull.
A famous statement issued by Janklow is recalled throughout Indian country with adults who remember the early and turbulent 1970s: “? I will either put all AIM leaders in jail, or under it.”
Janklow earned his reputation in Indian country. Although no tribal leaders were willing to go on record with any comment on Janklow’s current situation.
He was an attorney from 1966 to 1973 with the Tribal legal defense office on the Rosebud Reservation. He was also instrumental as a national board member of the Legal Defense Fund in forming the Dakota Legal Defense Fund that put other defense offices on other South Dakota reservations.
His reputation in Indian country is widespread. He is known for litigation instead of negotiation when it comes to reservations, especially with jurisdiction. Janklow made it clear to tourists that come to the state that they should avoid the reservations because of the lack of laws to protect them and they would be met with “panhandlers.”
While attorney general he was involved in a legal action to reduce the size and disestablish the reservation of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota in northeastern South Dakota. As governor in his third term the state filed in federal court to disestablish the Yankton Sioux Reservation.
As a co-author of what is referred to as the Mitigation Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton, the state of South Dakota was awarded land that according to treaty rights activists claim belongs to the Lakota Nation. The land was part of the land taken from the tribes when reservoirs above dams along the Missouri River were completed to provide flood protection and hydro-electric power.
To his credit, tribal leaders are very quick to praise the former governor with state assistance when the village of Oglala was struck by a tornado June 4, 1999. He swiftly provided state communications and ordered state prisoners to the area to assist in the cleanup operations. He was given high praise from local tribal leaders and residents for his actions.
Janklow was accused, but never charged by the federal government with the alleged rape of Jancita Eagle Deer in 1967 while she was employed as his children’s baby sitter on the Rosebud Reservation. He has denied that accusation and sued Peter Matthiesson, author of “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,” and the publisher, for printing the story in the book. The case was thrown out of federal court and a second printing of the book still contained the paragraphs devoted to the incident.
In 2000 the U.S. Civil Rights Commission issued a scathing report on fairness of justice in South Dakota. American Indians testified before the commission at a fact-finding session the fall before. Janklow strongly criticized the commission publicly for degrading the state and for not using facts in its report.
Janklow is known state-wide for his speed on the highways and speed in other parts of his life. He is a no-nonsense politician and even his adversaries admit that with his arrogant style he still gets things done.
He drives his own vehicles to emergencies like tornados and wildfires. Passengers with him while heading to emergencies told the news media that he at times drove to the limit the computer on the vehicle would allow, 99 mph.
His past driving record, say many prosecuting attorneys, will come into play. Janklow has had 12 driving violations over a period of four years, 1990 – 1994, a period of time between his terms as governor. He paid more than $1,000 in fines. In 1999 during a state of the state speech to the state legislature he bragged about his fast driving. During his State of the State Address in 1999, Janklow told legislators about his habit of speeding.
“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. I can pay the ticket, but I don’t want to go to jail.”