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Interim President Jeff Ettinger inside Morrill Hall on Sept. 20, 2023. Ettinger gets deep with the Daily: “It’s bittersweet.”
Ettinger reflects on his presidency
Published April 22, 2024

Lenient sentence still not enough for Janklow

Last week, a judge sentenced former Rep. Bill Janklow, R-S.D. to 100 days in jail and fined him $5,700 for speeding, failure to stop at a stop sign, reckless driving and the second-degree manslaughter of 55-year-old motorcyclist Randy Scott. In addition, he is not allowed to drive for the next three years. After serving 30 days, Janklow will be allowed to leave jail for as many as 10 hours each day for community service.

Although Janklow has certainly paid for his crimes with losing his career, it was his career that saved him from a harsher penalty, one that would have better reflected his dangerous driving record.

Janklow’s sentence is far below the average – a six-month jail term or nearly seven-year prison term – for those convicted of second-degree manslaughter since 1989, according to The Associated Press. The judge could have sentenced Janklow anywhere from zero to 11 years in jail. Presumably, he was swayed by Janklow’s extensive public service. The politician served as South Dakota’s attorney general, governor for four terms and representative in the U.S. House.

Along with a career of honorable accomplishments, Janklow has an equally infamous proclivity for unsafe driving. Since 1990 he has been fined for speeding 12 times and was involved in a near-accident at the same intersection where Scott was run over. Despite his reputation, Janklow mounted an abysmal, undignified defense claiming the accident was the result of a diabetic reaction. He appeared repentant in court but has already appealed the conviction, even after the judge expunged his felony record. Janklow’s legal strategy is probably related to the pending civil case brought by Scott’s family.

Over the years, Janklow proved he is all but impervious to both public opinion and the law. It seems even now he is unwilling to accept his overtly lenient sentence. In order to truly make amends to his constituency, as well as Scott’s family, Janklow must lose the indignant attitude that has gotten him here. At least he will have the next 30 days to think about it.

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