OPINION — The investigation into South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s fatal crash echoes Rep. Bill Janklow’s similar incident 17 years earlier.

Janklow ran a stop sign in rural Moody County on Aug. 16, 2003, striking and killing a Minnesota man.

Janklow, a former South Dakota attorney general and four-term governor, was speeding when he blew through the stop sign in his Cadillac near Trent. He collided with a motorcycle ridden by Randy Scott, who died at the scene; Janklow suffered a broken right hand, some paralysis in his left leg and a minor brain bleed.

Janklow, who often had joked about his history of speeding, was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter, a felony, as well as the misdemeanor counts of speeding, running a stop sign and reckless driving. He resigned from Congress, served 100 days in a Sioux Falls jail and never again sought public office.

Janklow had his license to practice law suspended for 26 months but then resumed his practice and was once again eager to engage with courtroom foes and reporters. I spoke with him a few times — well, more accurately, I listened for an hour or so as he roamed from topic to topic.

One lengthy call occurred when I was the editor of The Rapid City Weekly News. Janklow called as the sun was setting one winter night, and we were on the phone for at least two hours.

We talked about the crash, and he said the whole state hated him. I said no, that wasn’t accurate — but they were disappointed. Some people disliked, even hated him when he was riding high, I reminded him, and there were people who held great disdain for him after the fatal crash.

But others were willing to give him a chance to redeem himself. It seemed to give him some peace.

We also talked about me writing a lengthy profile, perhaps even a book. I wrote a lengthy letter and sent it to his home.

Five years later, he called me at The Mitchell Daily Republic, where I was the assistant editor. He tried to get me to call him “Bill,” which I tried, but “Governor” came out a lot easier.

He had reread the letter, Janklow told me.

“It’s a good letter,” he said.

Come to Brandon, Janklow said, and let’s talk about things. Let’s move forward on that account of his life and career.

Like an idiot, I didn’t do it immediately. I was busy, but not that busy. I just didn’t get it done. Then, that fall, Janklow announced he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

By January 2012, he was dead.

Ravnsborg has been charged with careless driving, using a cell phone while driving, albeit not at the moment of the crash, and failure to remain in a lane of travel for the Sept. 12 crash that killed Joe Boever just west of Highmore.

Ravnsborg also has a checkered driving record, with six speeding tickets and two other driving violations in South Dakota between 2014-18 and two speeding tickets in Iowa.

Ravnsborg, 44, is just getting his political career started. He ran for the Republican nomination for Senate in 2014, finishing fourth. Former Gov. Mike Rounds won that primary and is now in his second term in the Senate.

Ravnsborg defeated former U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler, now the chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party, in the 2018 election. On Tuesday, as head of the SDDP, Seiler called on Ravnsborg to investigate Gov. Kristi Noem for her use of state airplanes for travel to other states for Republican Party events and conservative gatherings.

Suddenly, Seiler and Ravnsborn are the oddest of political bedfellows, although the Democrats also called on Ravnsborg to resign.

Even if he does not, Seiler wants Noem investigated and further hurt as she prepares for the 2022 election. She has caused herself a lot of damage, and the Democrats want to keep it coming.

Despite what people speculate on social media, Ravnsborg and Noem are far from friends and political allies. Very far.

Noem would prefer to see him resign, which would allow her to select an attorney general who would oversee any investigation into her. With just misdemeanor charges, it appears Ravnsborg will attempt to ride this out and remain in office.

If he chooses to seek a second term as attorney general, Ravnsborg would be on the ballot in 2022, as would Noem. But his spokesman, Mike Deaver of Salt Lake City, said politics were far from his mind right now.

“As of right now he has no plans to resign, he has not even seen the charging documents which are misdemeanors nor does this even have a date with a judge at this point,” Deaver said in an email Thursday. “He has the right to contest the evidence and findings, but until he has them in full that is still a question. He is still at work as the state’s attorney general and we have not discussed campaigns.”

He likely is wondering why that fatal moment happened, why he didn’t see Boever, why his car was on the shoulder of the highway. It was a life-changing moment. It was, as I wrote days after the crash, an eerie bit of fate for both men.

When Janklow announced he was facing the end of his life during a November 2011 press conference, he said he was proud of his career, but had one major regret.

“If I had to do it over, I’d do everything I did, but I’d stop at a stop sign,” he said.

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