- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

FLANDREAU, S.D. (AP) — A jury yesterday convicted Rep. Bill Janklow, South Dakota Republican, of manslaughter in a collision that killed a motorcyclist, rejecting the congressman’s claim that he was disoriented by a diabetic reaction.

Janklow quickly announced that he will resign from Congress.

“I wish to inform you that because of present circumstances, I will be unable to perform the duties incumbent on me in representing the people of South Dakota as their U.S. representative,” Janklow wrote in a letter that he said was to be sent today to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.

“Therefore I wish to inform you that I will resign from the House of Representatives, effective January 20, 2004.”

That is the same date Janklow is scheduled to be sentenced. He could get up to 10 years in prison.

Earlier yesterday, a jury in Janklow’s boyhood hometown deliberated for about five hours before convicting the lawmaker of second-degree manslaughter, reckless driving, running a stop sign and speeding for the Aug. 16 crash that killed Randy Scott, 55, a farmer from Hardwick, Minn.

Prosecutors said Janklow was traveling at more than 70 mph in his white Cadillac when he collided with Mr. Scott’s Harley-Davidson.

“The state of South Dakota brought charges against a man we believed to be responsible for Randy’s death,” the victim’s mother, Marcella Scott, said in a statement. “We are satisfied that the correct verdict was reached.”

Janklow appeared stunned as the verdict was read. He walked steadily out of the courtroom, got into a vehicle driven by his son and left the courthouse. He refused to respond to questions shouted by a horde of reporters.

Janklow was elected to South Dakota’s lone House seat last year after an extraordinary political career in which he served four years as state attorney general in the 1970s and 16 years as governor.

A special election will be held during the state’s June 1 primary to fill the rest of Janklow’s term, giving Democrats an early chance to pick up a seat in the narrowly divided House. Janklow would have been up for re-election in November.

Democrat Stephanie Herseth, who lost to Janklow in 2002, has said she intends to run for the House again. Republican John Thune, who formerly held the seat, has not indicated whether he will run for anything in 2004.

Mr. Thune has been mentioned as a challenger to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat, but some Republicans want him to run for the House instead because they believe he stands a better chance against Miss Herseth.

During the trial, which began Dec. 1, the defense argued that Janklow, a diabetic, was suffering the effects of low blood sugar at the time of the crash because he had not eaten for 18 hours. Medical professionals told prosecutors it is unusual for anyone to go that long without food — and highly dangerous for a diabetic who takes insulin.

Deputy prosecutor Roger Ellyson called the diabetes defense “goofy,” saying Janklow concocted the defense as an excuse for his reckless driving.

Mr. Ellyson called Janklow an “unbelievably awful and menacing” driver.

“The defendant’s driving is like a deadly game of Russian roulette,” Mr. Ellyson said in closing arguments. “On August 16, Randy Scott took the bullet.”

“He couldn’t say, ‘I was driving so fast I couldn’t stop.’ Or he couldn’t say, ‘I always ignore these rural stop signs.’ That would be admitting to manslaughter. He knows the trouble he’s in,” Mr. Ellyson said.

The defense said Janklow took heart medication on the day of the crash that can mask the symptoms of a diabetic reaction. That is why Janklow did not feel his blood sugar drop before the accident, the defense contended.

Several witnesses — including Mr. Daschle, who called the congressman “a very truthful person” — said they did not see Janklow eat or drink anything that day.

Janklow has long been an unapologetic speeder, as witnessed during a 1999 speech to the Legislature.

“Bill Janklow speeds when he drives — shouldn’t, but he does,” Janklow said then. “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.”

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