FLANDREAU, S.D. – Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (search) joined another pillar of South Dakota politics in the courtroom Thursday as he testified at the manslaughter trial of Rep. Bill Janklow (search).
The defense called Daschle to bolster its contention that Janklow, a diabetic, had not eaten the day he collided with a motorcyclist. The defense contends a diabetic reaction caused Janklow to miss a stop sign before the deadly Aug. 16 crash.
Daschle said he was on stage with Janklow for about an hour at a Korean War veterans event the day of the crash.
"I didn't see him eat" or drink anything, Daschle said in his testimony, which lasted less than five minutes.
The senator added that he and Janklow — the state's lone representative in the House — are friends. "I think he's a very truthful person," Daschle said of the Republican.
Janklow, 64, is charged with second-degree manslaughter, running a stop sign, reckless driving and speeding in the crash that killed Randy Scott (search), 55, of Hardwick, Minn.
Janklow faces a maximum 10 years in prison if convicted of the manslaughter charge. A guilty verdict would also prompt the House ethics committee to investigate.
Three other people also testified Thursday they didn't see Janklow eat anything the day of the crash.
Leslie Simdorn, a former Janklow intern, said Janklow did not eat any of the barbecue available at the veterans event out of concern he may spill on his clothes.
"He did ask (chief of staff Chris Braendlin) for a hot dog," said Simdorn, who said she did not see him eat one. Braendlin testified Wednesday that Janklow hadn't had anything to eat all day.
Simdorn, and earlier Braendlin, said a heckler approached Janklow after the event and they exchanged words. Then Janklow went to his car without eating, Simdorn said. "He was pretty agitated."
An emergency medical technician said Janklow didn't appear to be suffering from low blood sugar after the accident, but he said Janklow did accept a Coke and some candy at the scene — two items that diabetics do not usually take unless they are low on sugar.
On Thursday, an accident reconstruction expert testified that Janklow was going 63 mph or 64 mph at the time of the crash — less than the Highway Patrol's estimate of 71 mph.
Engineer Robert O'Shea said he used evidence from the state and information taken from an electronic sensing device in the car — data that state troopers were not able to download.
O'Shea also said the motorcyclist could have been traveling 65 mph — faster than the 59 mph estimated by the Highway Patrol.
The speed limit on the rural road is 55 mph. Janklow had a stop sign; Scott did not.
Janklow, a former state attorney general and four-term governor, was elected to the House last year.