- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

FLANDREAU (AP) — Rep. Bill Janklow, a towering figure in South Dakota politics for three decades, went on trial yesterday in his boyhood hometown on a manslaughter charge stemming from an August crash that killed a motorcyclist.

A jury of nine women and four men was seated yesterday afternoon despite a selection process that revealed Mr. Janklow’s enormous popularity and the difficulty of finding impartial jurors in a small town where everyone knows everyone.

“This case scares me,” assistant prosecutor Roger Ellyson said. “It scares me because the defendant is so well-known, and this is his hometown — a fact I’m reminded of every time I drive into town.”

Green signs are posted on the roads entering town, telling people that Flandreau is the congressman’s hometown.

Opening statements were planned for late yesterday afternoon. Testimony was scheduled to begin this morning with prosecution witnesses.

Prosecutors have a list of 25 witnesses, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, who was with Mr. Janklow, a Republican, at an event in Aberdeen before the accident.

Potential jurors were asked whether they could hear the case despite Mr. Janklow’s popularity.

One potential juror said he has “a close friendship, relationship with Mr. Janklow.” After being excused, the man walked over and shook hands with the former four-term governor on his way out the door. Another said he knows Mr. Janklow’s mother and his family.

In addition, about a half-dozen potential jurors knew lead prosecutor Bill Ellingson from church, and many of those who were excused said they had ongoing or recent business with him.

Mr. Janklow, dressed in a blue suit and tie, wrote down the potential jurors’ names during the selection. He appeared relaxed and had his pen in his hand most of the time. He rarely spoke to his attorney.

Circuit Judge Rodney Steele told potential jurors the case likely will take five to seven days.

Mr. Janklow, 64, is charged with second-degree manslaughter, speeding, running a stop sign and reckless driving for an Aug. 16 collision that killed Randy Scott, 55, of Hardwick, Minn. The accident occurred near Trent at a rural intersection surrounded by flat corn and soybean fields.

The trial threatens to derail the career of a political icon in South Dakota. The blunt, tough-talking Mr. Janklow served as attorney general for four years in the 1970s and another 16 years as governor before being elected to South Dakota’s lone House seat last year.

If convicted of manslaughter, Mr. Janklow faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison. A conviction also would prompt the House ethics committee to investigate.

The committee’s rules say representatives who plead guilty or are convicted of a crime that carries two or more years in prison should refrain from voting or taking part in committee meetings in the chamber until their record is cleared or until re-elected.

The House Standards of Official Conduct Committee also could recommend a resolution reprimanding Mr. Janklow, censuring him or even expelling him, though the House rarely expels members. After Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., Ohio Democrat, was convicted in federal court last year for bribery, racketeering and tax evasion, he became the second House member to be expelled since the Civil War.

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