Records Detail Janklow’s Prior Driving Incident

Posted November 4, 2003 at 6:40pm

The judge overseeing Rep. Bill Janklow’s manslaughter case unsealed Tuesday some of the evidence submitted by prosecutors, including affadavits and police reports detailing a December 2002 incident in which the South Dakota Republican was speeding at 92 miles per hour along the same road that became the scene of a fatal accident in August.

Janklow’s attorney had asked the court to seal all evidence and close pre-trial hearings until after his Dec. 1 trial begins. That motion was opposed by 19 media organizations.

Circuit Judge Rodney Steele unsealed some records but ruled that others would not be released until after the jury is seated.

The state’s sole House Member and former four-term governor has been charged with going 71 mph in a 55-mph zone during an Aug. 16 collision that killed motorcyclist Randy Scott. Prosecutors have charged the freshman with second-degree manslaughter, a felony that could lead to a 10-year prison sentence. A conviction would make it difficult for Janklow to continue voting on the floor and would trigger an inquiry by the House ethics committee.

One of the documents unsealed was an affadavit from South Dakota resident Jennifer Walters, who described how Janklow’s white Cadillac with tinted windows nearly collided with her pickup truck on Dec. 29, 2002, at the same Moody County intersection where Scott was eventually killed.

“I know that a split second difference would have cost my family and myself our lives,” she said. “I believe that the driver of the car did not attempt to stop until they saw us, only then braking to avoid a collision.”

Walters said she immediately dialed 911 to report the near accident.

A police report that was also released confirmed that Janklow was driving the Cadillac and the car was clocked by radar at 92 mph.

The officer said he informed Janklow, who was talking on a cellphone, why he had pulled him over and that there had been a complaint that his car had nearly collided with another.

“Janklow stated to me that he was not paying attention to his speed. Janklow also stated that he did not remember running a stop sign. He stated that he travels these roads a lot and that he would have remembered a stop sign,” the police report said.

After a check of Janklow’s car, the officer told him to drive more slowly and allowed him to leave.

A short time later, the police dispatcher called Walters back to report that the car had been stopped and informed her that the driver was Gov. Janklow. Walters said she decided against filing a complaint because of the time it would take and Janklow’s stature.