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Janklow says he 'couldn't be sorrier' for accident that killed motorcyclist
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Janklow's comments at a news conference in Sioux Falls marked the first time he has spoken publicly since the Aug. 16 crash that killed Randy Scott. (MPR Photo/Cara Hetland)
South Dakota Congressman Bill Janklow has waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He faces charges in a fatal traffic accident. Instead of the hearing, Bill Janklow will be formally charged on Friday. The court papers were filed after Bill Janklow spoke to reporters on Monday, the first news conference since the accident. Janklow spoke slowly and deliberately and more than once was on the verge of breaking down.

Sioux Falls, S.D. — "I understand the interest you've had and the public has had, in wanting to hear from Bill Janklow."

That's the way the South Dakota congressman began his news conference in Sioux Falls today.

The last time the public saw Bill Janklow, he was walking into and out of a courtroom. It was two weeks after the accident. He looked frail. His hand was in a cast. He needed help walking.

I'm 64 years old and I've never dealt with anything like this. You can't prepare in life to deal in life with the enormity of what I'm dealing with and what I put other people through.
- Bill Janklow

Today, Bill Janklow was stronger. But he still displayed none of the swagger and attitude that have marked his news conferences for decades. He was humble and obvously confused. "I'm 64 years old. And I've never dealt with anything like this," Janklow said. "You can't prepare in life to deal in life with the enormity of what I'm dealing with and what I put other people through. Saying I'm sorry to some people is rhetoric. There's no way that I know how to express the sadness and the sorrow and the grief that has been brought to Mr. Robertson's family. None."

However, the man killed in the accident wasn't named Mr. Robertson. His name was Randy Scott. Three times during the news conference Bill Janklow referred to him by the wrong name.

In mid-August, Bill Janklow was driving home from an event. Authorities say he was going 71 miles an hour on a section of road posted at 55. Janklow ran a stop sign and Randy Scott's motorcycle hit Janklow's car. Randy Scott died. Bill Janklow was charged with second degree manslaughter.

Janklow refused to talk about the accident. He did talk about the injuries he received.

"They aren't a big deal because I'll heal," he said. "I'll heal a hundred percent. I had a small break in my right hand. I suffered some head injuries. I had bleeding in what is called the frontal lobe from a brain injury. And on the top right side and down the midline of my brain. It caused some memory problems, confusion and affected the ability to concentrate."

Janklow says he also suffered from paralysis in his left leg. He can walk now. But doctors told Janklow he'll have headaches for the next few months.

Janklow says it's only been in the last few days he's been able to speak coherently.

"Sometimes, I really stutter to the point where I can't talk," Janklow said. "It comes for a while and then it goes away. Some times in mid sentence and sometimes when I start to talk. And I'm to the point now where I can talk and I can think a lot more clearly."

He did have moments of confusion. He lost his train of thought several times. It was obvious Bill Janklow was getting tired about half way through the 50 minute press conference. A reporter was asking if he'd continue to do weekly news conferences. It's a simple question for any politician.

"I'll do it regularly. (pause) Here I go. (pause) Just a minute. (pause) I have a press conference every week and I'll start doing that again," Janklow finally said slowly. "See here, I know what I want to say, and it's just not coming out very good.

Janklow seemed embarrassed when he couldn't remember the name of a supporter or people he works with in congress. But then he talked about the letters and phone calls he's receiving. And that's when Bill Janklow was sharp and emotional.

"I've honestly seen the worst vile vulgar hate mail any human could ever receive." Janklow said. "I've also received a huge amounts of correspondence, messages of prayers of just nice things. I'm not going to go into it because all I do is cry when I do."

Janklow returned to Washington D.C. last Sunday. He cast two votes on the floor of the house before returning to South Dakota Wednesday. Washington shut down federal offices then because of Hurricane Isabel.

Janklow says he is thinking about his future. But for now has to concentrate entirely on today. He's spending most of his time now on constituient work. He says if he believed he was ineffective, he would resign.

"There's things more important than politics to me." Janklow said. "I understand mortality, probably better than most. A few years ago I was sick, very sick. My pancreates was removed. As a result of what happened a month or so ago I understand mortality and I'm just trying to figure out what's appropriate. That's not a good answer but it's the truth."

Janklow says all of South Dakota will be his jury. He says he believes they'll listen to the facts and won't rush to judgement.

Bill Janklow says he drives more than most people. By his estimate he logs more than 10,000 miles a year. The weekend of the accident, he drove across the state and back again.

Janklow's driving record has been scrutinized since the accident. He received more than a dozen speeding tickets in a ten-year period. He often joked about it. Now he says his speeding should not be the only issue.

"It's not my driving record," Janlow said. "I say this charitably. I've gone to a lot of crisis in South Dakota and I know how fast you all drive to get there too. Every one of you ... And so I think we all make light of stuff some times that we shouldn't make light of. And that includes Bill Janklow in a very big way."

Janklow was asked if he can bounce back emotionally from the accident. And again he used the wrong name when referring to the motorcyclist who was killed.

"I don't have any idea," he said. "I've never been involved in anything like this before. It's a big deal. It's a big deal for the Robertson family too."

Finally a reporter asked Janklow to clarify the confusion over names. Janklow was embarrassed

"Somehow and I don't even know how I got Cliff Robertson in my head," Janklow said. "I keep saying that all the time and it's just terrible and it's almost like I'm insensitive to it and bbelive me I'm not. And I say that at home. It is Randolph Scott or Randy Scott."

The victim's mother, Marcella Scott, and the rest of her family issued a statement. They had hoped for more honesty about the cause of Scott's death. The family said no verdict can bring Randy Scott back. They hope the legal system makes Bill Janklow face the consequences of his actions.

Janklow will answer the criminal charges against him Friday afternoon. It's at the arrignment that he'll enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

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