Janklow calls perceptions of civil rights violations 'garbage'

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PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow's main criticism of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report was that the commission reached conclusions without gathering any real evidence.

The result was a report that badmouthed the state, he said, adding he was tired of having people badmouth his state. He repeated that theme frequently during a one-hour, statewide radio program. It was his response to a recently issued report on the status of the justice system in the state as it relates to the American Indian population. The report came out of a hearings in early December.

The governor agreed racial problems occurred in the state.

"They (the commission members) weren't interested in substance. They aren't interested in racial harmony. They aren't interested in racial accord. What they are interested in is turmoil and finger pointing and name calling and I'm going to accommodate them," Janklow said on a live, April 4 radio program over South Dakota Public Radio. This is his first response since the report was released March 27.

Gov. Janklow said he had not read the entire report, only the conclusions. "I don't read garbage. "I'm only reading the conclusions. Since they said the facts are only allegations and they agree that they haven't been documented and haven't been substantiated, that's like reading fiction as far as I'm concerned. I'll be glad to read the conclusions, but I'm not going to read the fiction." During the program he took an offensive stand against the commission, the moderator Curt Nickisch and call-in guests. He apologized at program's end.

He referred to Mary Frances Berry, chairwoman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission as "the lady."

"Let me tell you the first thing that disturbs me. The lady that runs the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights ? let me give you a quote the lady said some time ago. 'Civil Rights laws were not passed to give civil rights protections to all Americans.' She doesn't think civil rights laws were passed to give civil rights protection to all Americans, as the majority of the commission seems to believe. Instead they were passed out of a recognition that some Americans had protection because they belonged to favorite group," Janklow said.

"In other words. This lady doesn't believe, that I as a white man or somebody else as an Asian American or somebody else as an elderly person or whatever are entitled to the same treatment under civil rights."

A major concern expressed in the report was that American Indians living in the state lost confidence in the criminal justice system with the belief that justice is administered under the cloak of racism on the federal and state levels.

The governor referred to the fact the commission recommended legislation at the state level that would prevent hate crimes. Janklow said if the commission had checked, it would have found legislation already in place, implemented in 1993.

Janklow read the context of a state statute to Nickisch (he called him sir throughout the program), to prove the state had passed hate crime legislation, "just to show you how phony these people are. South Dakota became one of the leading states in the nation at passing laws against hate crimes.

"These people were so busy on this commission, so anxious to badmouth South Dakota, badmouth South Dakota's people, badmouth our system, they didn't even bother to look up what the existing law is in the state of South Dakota.

"Now sir, are you beginning to understand why I'm sick and tired of people who come in and hold one-day hearings and badmouth the state?" he asked.

The governor then proceeded to quiz the radio moderator about the report and finally said "there was no evidence to prove the conclusion."

Another assessment from Janklow was that the commission spent one day in the state and then "brainwashed the media.

The commission spent two days in South Dakota. The first day, Dec. 5, 1999, they toured the Pine Ridge reservation and visited the location where two bodies were found in July 1999. The investigation by the FBI has not resulted in any arrests.

"Our office of Human Rights was never contacted by the commission or any of its members. It was never asked about its case load, never asked if it's ahead or behind in its work. It was never asked if they need more help. It was never asked what kind of cases they handled in the last year or two. They were never asked anything at all they were never contacted.

"It shows you they were far more interested in headlines than substance."

The commission report said data collection was insufficient to determine the amount of discrimination which exists. Janklow said since were no facts in the report to warrant this statement in the conclusion, "Then certainly they shouldn't talk about improving it at the levels of the criminal justice system of the state, should they?"

Nickisch asked if the governor if the mistrust in the justice system by American Indians has reached crisis proportion.

"What do you mean, do I agree with that?" Janklow responded in elevated tones. "Are you asking me a leading question?" He then went on to quiz Nickisch.

He returned to the hate crime question and said he refuted that criticism. "This is what I'm fighting though. This is the problem. It's people like you and the media, sir, that are feeding this kind of frenzy that these folks will come in and say these kinds of the things and do these kinds of things. You and I have to deal in facts, because if we deviate from that sir, then we are misleading the public."

He said the report was sent to the media two days before it was released to the public. He received his copy two days later. His point was that members of the media called to get his response before the commission report was released. "They all knew I didn't have a copy to respond. That shows how illegitimate it is."

"What I'm complaining about is not that we have racial problems in South Dakota, because we do. And, to the extent anybody wants to discuss them, I would love to discuss." The governor went into his history as a legal-aid lawyer who represented people not adequately represented. He went on to say that it was because of his work, while a lawyer on the Rosebud reservation that American Indians were included on juries.

The governor listed his accomplishments and work in Indian country from his time as a lawyer on the reservation to his work on the Pine Ridge reservation at Oglala after the June 1999 tornado. A caller asked if the report was about Janklow or the racial situation in the state. He said he was only responding to an earlier caller who asked about reconciliation and what the state was doing.

"I appreciate you having me on today, and I realize it has been more controversial today. But I felt I had to speak out to defend South Dakota from allegations. Let's deal in substance. But more importantly, let's all wake up tomorrow morning and decide everybody's going to do one thing to bring racial harmony. I'm not asking everybody to do a lot, let's all do one thing for two days in a row."