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Janklow guilty

FLANDREAU, S.D. - Congressman William Janklow's long political career may be over.

The popular and outspoken Janklow, 64, was found guilty of second degree manslaughter charges and three misdemeanors, Dec. 8 after a five-hour jury deliberation in his hometown.

He was also convicted of reckless driving, speeding and running a stop sign - misdemeanors. The manslaughter conviction could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

He said he would resign from the Congress effective Jan., 20, the day set aside for sentencing. He made that announcement shortly after the jury turned in its verdict ending speculation about his career. He sent a resignation letter to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

"Representing the people of South Dakota in all the capacities that I have over the years has brought a treasure of memories and friends. This includes the year I have spent in the U.S. House," Janklow stated in the letter to Hastert.

Janklow's attorney Ed Evans formulated a defense based on a diabetic reaction Janklow may have had, which, he said, caused the congressman to be confused or suffer a spell that prevented him from reacting to the stop sign, which he ran causing the death of motorcyclist Randy Scott, a farmer from Hardwick, Minn. in August.

Witnesses called by the defense corroborated the fact that Janklow had not eaten for some 19 hours before the accident. A factor that caused his glucose level to lower. Janklow does suffer from diabetes.

In tearful testimony on Dec. 6, Janklow said his busy schedule prevented him from eating, and that he knew the risks involved as a diabetic.

Dr. Fred Lovrien, an endocrinologist in Sioux Falls, testified for the defense and said that because Janklow had not eaten, was on a high dosage of insulin it would be "almost certain" he would have had hypoglycemia, low blood sugar.

Ellyson said Janklow's medical records showed that he suffered from high blood sugar not low blood sugar and at first was skeptical about Janklow's medical defense.

Evans told the jury during closing arguments on Dec. 8 that a glucose test after the accident would have been helpful, but he said the drawn blood sat in a lab in the state laboratory in Pierre. He said when he tried to have it tested by an independent doctor the sample was spoiled.

Roger Ellyson, assistant State's Attorney, told the jury the decision was easy, not because of who the defendant is, but because Scott "lost his life."

The prosecution stuck to the facts in the case. One, that Janklow disregarded a stop sign while driving over the speed limit as Scott approached the intersection without a stop sign in that direction. And the fact that Janklow had been witnessed running that same stop sign before.

Dana and Jennifer Walters said they narrowly escaped an accident with Janklow eight months earlier at the same intersection. Jennifer Walters said her family had just exited the intersection when she heard screeching tires and saw dust flying directly behind them. The vehicle was driven by Janklow. She said because Janklow was governor at the time she did not pursue charges.

Following the accident, Janklow told EMTs on the scene that his blood sugar was fine and that he had eaten earlier in the day. A taped conversation between a South Dakota Highway patrol officer that transported Janklow to Flandreau, played to the jury, also heard Janklow state that he was fine and his blood sugar was not low.

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Evans told the jury that because of a heart problem Janklow was taking a medication that could possibly mask the symptoms of low blood sugar.

Ellyson told the jury that diabetes was not a defense. He said Janklow said he was aware of the risk, so if he had not eaten or taken insulin he was presenting a risk and should be convicted.

After a pre-trial hearing, Circuit Judge Rodney Steele ruled against entering Janklow's entire driving record, only allowing those incidents that would have a bearing on the case.

Ellyson said that Janklow was playing a game of "crazy Russian Roulette" with his driving record.

As the verdict was announced from the jury of eight women and four men, the courtroom was hushed, Janklow is said to have looked straight ahead. There was no cheering nor disappointed comments from court spectators.

As Judge Steele repeated each charge, jury foreman Mitchell repeated guilty.

Evans said he was disappointed in the verdict, but more so he was disappointed in himself for not presenting the information strongly enough to convince the jury on Janklow's medical condition.

Marcella Scott said she was satisfied with the verdict. In a prepared statement she said, "We are satisfied that the correct verdict was reached. The cause of Randy's death is no longer in dispute. The Scott family would like to express our gratitude to State's Attorney, Bill Ellingson and Deputy Prosecutor, Roger Ellyson. We would also like to thank the members of the jury. We know their job was difficult.

"We will continue the difficult process of coming to terms with Randy's death."

Janklow is known in parts of Indian country in South Dakota as an Indian fighter. As a former Attorney General and governor he was instrumental in litigation against tribes and tried to force disestablishment of the Yankton Sioux Tribe and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe.

He was angry when the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report based on testimony from people in South Dakota in 2000 that indicted the state for racial profiling, not prosecuting some non-Indians for committing crimes against American Indians.

Janklow worked as a defender on the Rosebud Reservation prior to moving to the state Attorney General's office as an assistant prosecutor.

As a state prosecutor in the turbulent 1970s he was visible during the turmoil on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He vigorously advocated that members of the American Indian Movement should be prosecuted for any crimes committed.

Janklow is considered the prince of South Dakota politics. He served in the governor's office for 16 years, longer than any other governor. He was elected to the House in 2002 defeating newcomer to politics, Stephanie Herseth of Sioux Falls.

After Janklow was charged with the manslaughter charge there was speculation among politicos in the state that he would resign. Democrats speculated that Herseth, whose family has been in state politics for generations, would run for the office again. Republicans were reluctant to speculate. Janklow had maintained from the time of the accident that he would not resign.

The lone U.S. House seat for South Dakota will remain empty for nearly six months. At the June primary election the position will be filled.