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Janklow sentenced to 100 days in jail

Janklow walks up the courthouse steps with his legal team in a recent photo.
Janklow walks up the courthouse steps with his legal team in a recent photo.

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(CNN) -- Bill Janklow, a blunt-spoken political titan from South Dakota, will serve 100 days in a county jail for the death of a motorcyclist who slammed into his speeding car last August.

On Thursday, two days after stepping down from his U.S. House seat, a subdued Janklow, 64, learned his fate in a courtroom in his hometown of Flandreau.

Circuit Judge Rodney Steele sentenced him to 100 days in jail and three years of probation for his conviction on charges of second-degree manslaughter, speeding, running a stop sign and reckless driving.

The charges could have carried as much as 10 years in prison. But after listening to a parade of defense witnesses testify about Janklow's character and contributions to the community, Steele opted not to impose a lengthy prison sentence.

If Janklow completes his probation without incident, the conviction will be removed from his record. Steele also said that after serving the first 30 days of his sentence, Janklow will be allowed to leave jail periodically to perform community service.

He was also ordered to pay more than $5,000 in fines and court costs, and he will not be allowed to drive during his probationary period.

Janklow, who will serve his sentence at a detention center in nearby Sioux Falls, was ordered to report to jail on February 7.

Thursday's hearing was the culmination of a spectacular political fall for Janklow, a Republican who served four terms as governor before winning the state's lone House seat in 2002. His political career began in 1974, when he was elected attorney general.

Janklow, who spoke briefly at his sentencing hearing to express remorse, left the Moody County Courthouse without making any comment to the media, as did family members of the motorcyclist who died, Randolph E. Scott, 55, of Hardwick, Minnesota.

But a friend of Scott's who was riding motorcycles with him on the day of the accident, Terry Johnson, testified for the defense Thursday. He urged the judge not to impose a jail sentence on Janklow.

"I expected no jail time, so I was somewhat surprised that there was 100 days given to him," Johnson said after the hearing. "I think that's a just sentence. I think it's probably a little excessive, given his background. ... I think that he could do more good doing some community service to our young people just learning how to drive."

According to police, Janklow was behind the wheel of his Cadillac on August 16 when he ran a stop sign at a rural intersection about 10 miles south of Flandreau. Scott, who was riding his motorcycle home from his father-in-law's 80th birthday party, crashed into the side of Janklow's car and was killed.

Prosecutors said Janklow -- who had boasted about his lead-foot driving in the past -- was going at least 70 mph in a 55 mph zone at the time of the collision. He suffered head, hand and leg injuries in the accident.

At a news conference before the trial, Janklow said he "couldn't be sorrier" about the accident, but he bristled at reporters who questioned him about his driving record, which included 13 traffic citations since 1990.

During the trial, his attorneys argued that a diabetic reaction had contributed to the crash. But a jury brushed aside that argument and convicted him in December.

After Thursday's hearing, prosecutor Roger Ellyson expressed satisfaction with the sentence.

"I think it's fair and reasonable, and I certainly wouldn't second guess it," he said.

Commenting on the defense's contention that Janklow's medical problems were to blame for the crash, Ellyson said, "I simply didn't believe it; still don't believe it."

A special election will be held June 1 to pick Janklow's replacement in the House.

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