Resignation was the right decision

Resignation was the right decision by the Plain Talk In late September, we reflected on a news conference held earlier that month by Rep. William Janklow.

He clearly hadn't healed entirely from an Aug. 16 traffic accident near Trent.

Unless you've been living in a cave the past five months, you're probably more than familiar with the story.

Janklow, driving a Cadillac, blew through a stop sign at the intersection of two county roads near Trent.

Janklow was speeding.

He drove directly into the path of motorcyclist Randy Scott of Hardwick, MN.

Scott was killed instantly.

Janklow said at the Sept. 22 news conference that he "couldn't be sorrier" about the accident and Scott's death.

He gave no indication that resignation was in his future.

We noted back then that leaving office would have been a rather easy decision for the freshman Congressman to make.

South Dakotans who thought he might step down early, before the trial, only had to think for an instant about the true nature of the man.

Only one conclusion could be made: early resignation wasn't about to happen.

Janklow has proven time and again that he's not afraid to take on rather daunting challenges.

But, most of the time, he has been � forgive our play on words � in the driver's seat, charting our state's future course in Pierre or representing us in Washington.

All of that suddenly changed late Monday afternoon. A Moody County jury pinned the responsibility for Scott's death solely on Janklow.

It's strange. For months, the talk among men and women, as they huddled over their morning cups of coffee, was how, ultimately, there would be a judgement day for South Dakota's most renowned politician.

What was so shocking, though, was how quick and precise the process was.

Five hours of deliberation. That's all the jury needed.

The verdict no doubt was expected by some people. And probably came as a shock to even more. Because more often than not, people expressed doubt that the courts would hold Janklow responsible for the happenings that dreadful summer day near Trent.

Janklow was a man of power. Ironically, his primary role in South Dakota has been that of a public servant, but he's commonly viewed as a person of privilege.

Those who listened to the tongue wagging before the trial likely heard people time and again say the charges brought against him would never stick.

Its outcome is something unprecedented and, for the most part, unexpected.

Janklow decided to drop his sword Monday.

He is, in effect, surrendering one of the things he is best known for � control.

He will resign on the day he is sentenced, Jan. 20, and we will elect his replacement in June.

It all seems surreal in a way. This is a man who fought to convert USD-Springfield into a prison, and won.

He fought to buy a core railroad line to counter ongoing abandonments of track by private companies, and won.

He fought to uncap allowable interest rates to bring Citibank to the state, and won.

He fought to cut property taxes, fought to put juveniles under the control of the Department of Corrections, and more or less elbowed his way into the scenes of a host of natural catastrophes, from blizzards to forest fires, flooding to tornadoes.

It quickly became apparent that he wasn't doing these things to endear himself to constituents.

It was his style. It earned him the nickname "Wild Bill." It was used as both a term of endearment and an expression of dislike throughout the state.

In his September news conference, Janklow said he had thought a lot about his political future but had made no decisions.

"I don't know what's appropriate at this point in time, candidly," he said.

Thankfully, on Monday, he did the right thing.

He recognized that no matter how hard he may fight, his effectiveness as a leader in the state is over.

Thankfully, he spared us from one last battle.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at

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