Driver gets bond in cyclist's death

Lawyer: Man's only record is one of service

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AIKEN --- Daniel Johnson shuffled into the small courtroom Wednesday, eyes focused on the floor, then on Magistrate Bond Judge Danny Lynn.

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Daniel Johnson (right) walks into a courtroom for a bond hearing Wednesday at the Aiken County Bond Court. Johnson was arrested Tuesday and charged with reckless homicide in an October crash that killed a bicyclist.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Daniel Johnson (right) walks into a courtroom for a bond hearing Wednesday at the Aiken County Bond Court. Johnson was arrested Tuesday and charged with reckless homicide in an October crash that killed a bicyclist.

He listened in silence as attorney Jim Huff argued why he should be released on his own recognizance for reckless homicide. Johnson is charged in the Oct. 1 wreck that killed a bicyclist, Dr. Matthew Burke, on Beech Island Avenue.

Johnson, 41, has lived in the county 31 years. He's a Sunday school teacher. He coaches the church's volleyball team. He's a former EMT who works for Aiken County Emergency Management.

"His whole life has been to serve the county," Huff said.

Lynn considered Johnson's background and lack of a criminal record in setting a bond of $50,000. As conditions of the bond, Johnson cannot make contact with the family of Burke, either personally or through a third party.

Johnson surrendered Tuesday night at the Aiken County Detention Center after a warrant was issued for a charge of reckless homicide.

Johnson, who lives in the 400 block of Beech Island Avenue, struck five cyclists with his Dodge Durango about 6:40 p.m. four months ago. Burke, 38, was critically injured and died Sunday evening.

The arrest warrant says that the group of about 15 cyclists was "legally in the roadway" and that Johnson's driving was "grossly negligent which caused the death of Mr. Matthew Burke."

On Wednesday, Huff called the incident "a very sad accident."

The South Carolina Highway Patrol finished its investigation "several weeks ago," 2nd Circuit Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. said Wednesday.

Thurmond said a charge of reckless driving was possible, but if Johnson pleaded guilty or was convicted of the charge, it would have made it much harder to press the current charge of reckless homicide.

"A double jeopardy argument could have been made," said Thurmond, referring to the constitutional amendment that protects citizens from being charged with the same crime twice.

He said his office was "certainly hoping" Burke would recover, but added, "It's illogical to serve a warrant for reckless homicide if the victim is still alive."

Asked about a reckless driving charge for the four other cyclists injured, Thurmond said that was a decision to be made on the magistrate level.

Sid Gaulden, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, didn't have an immediate answer Wednesday about the potential for other charges.

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Gpoulter
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Gpoulter 02/10/11 - 02:55 am
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I have found some peace in

I have found some peace in knowing that the State of South Carolina is not ignoring the tragic loss of my friend. Thank you Mr. Thurmond for your diligence in this matter.

Orinda8
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Orinda8 02/10/11 - 10:20 am
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This is the first time I

This is the first time I heard that Johnson was actually and EMT! Did he not leave the scene of the accident and make no attempt to use his training to aid those he hit? Could Dr Burke have survived with immediate assistance at the scene? This event gets more tragic everytime more info comes out.

tjones1
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tjones1 02/10/11 - 12:18 pm
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What a tragic loss, my heart

What a tragic loss, my heart break for the family of Dr. Burke. I am also heart broken for Mr. Johnson. It is such a preventable tradgedy. It did say in the paper that he did offer to help and that he was an EMT but that the other bikers refused to allow him. Im sure they were beyond upset and that is why they didn't allow it, but he did try. Please continue to pray for all those involved, DR. Burke's family, the other bikers involved and Mr. Johnson and his family.

JimL1
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JimL1 02/10/11 - 12:29 pm
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It is called the "Good old

It is called the "Good old boy network." He killed one man and injured others, ran from the scene and therefore should be considered a, threat to society, and a flight risk. However, this may also be an indication of how seriously this judge takes killing bicyclists.

TakeAHike
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TakeAHike 02/10/11 - 12:40 pm
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"He's a former EMT..." The

"He's a former EMT..."
The key word in that phrase is "former" but as this is a just newspaper comments site I cannot say anything further. Although Johnson's arrest and bond amount cannot bring Matt back, it is some comfort to know that officials have investigated and taken appropriate action in this incident. Knowing that the man responsible is off the street has given me two nights of solid sleep and for that I thank the officers, Solicitor Thurmond and Judge Lynn and the others involved but not named here. Bless you and thank you for your service and your continuing efforts.
JS

Martin D
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Martin D 02/10/11 - 12:59 pm
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this is for jimL... do u know

this is for jimL... do u know for sure that he RAN FROM THE SCENE..? DO U KNOW MR JOHNSON? where do u get your information from? why dont we get together and talk.....come out from behind your keyboard. what if you were you were in this situation....Untill you actually know someone and have learned their ways or habits,it's not fair to either family to be bashing anyone!!! i feel bad for the loss to his family, but i do not bash the man for riding his bike... i ride myself! i have been run off the road, tboned a car, i am very fortunate, i did not sue nor bash the person in the automobile. it's unessasary and rude... if have anything further to say feel welcome to email me and i would glady meet you for lunch to discuss this topic!!!!!

localbusinessowner
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localbusinessowner 02/10/11 - 01:07 pm
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Yes, let's keep adding

Yes, let's keep adding comments and confusing stories. HE DID NOT LEAVE THE SCENE, you are confusing stories. He offered help, it was refused, understandbly, he had just hit them, its called anger and tempers flaring. Law enforcement did its job and investigated. People commenting and confusing the stories do nothing but add fuel to the fire. I seriously doubt Dr. Burke's Family, Mr. Johnson's Family and especially Mr. Johnson has had a night's sleep since Oct. 1, 2010. The whole situation is tragic.

tjones1
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tjones1 02/10/11 - 01:15 pm
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He did not run from the

He did not run from the scene, please speak the truth, not what you think to be the truth. Please focus on the fact that a mans life was lossed . It was a horrible accident, this rhetoric doesn't help the family at all.

tjones1
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tjones1 02/10/11 - 01:18 pm
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Thanks martin d and local

Thanks martin d and local busines owner you put it much better than I could have. and not related to this tradgey, but I will not pass a biker on the road again. I will follow behind at their spead, which is below the minimum spead limit, until they turn off or pull over. I won't put them or myself at risk.

nfall
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nfall 02/10/11 - 02:31 pm
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I ride frequently, even to

I ride frequently, even to work which is 14 miles each way and I have been buzzed numerous times and ran off the road once (that person just kept going). This is how I feel about it, should someone ever attempt to kill me (otherwise known as vehicular homicide) by striking me while I am LEGALLY (Yes, I have equal rights to the road as any other vehicle) riding on the roads that I pay the same taxes to occupy, I will, if able , defend myself. If someone attacks you in any other setting, you defend yourself. Why is this any different? Is it because some people de-humanize objects and other people on the road when driving in their automobiles?. If someone hits you with a 3000 pound metal object, I believe any action with any object available is justified in stopping that attack and putting the attacker out of commission. For all I know, they have no reason to stop trying to kill me, in fact all the more, I am the witness that will put them in jail. I have the right to do so, and if I am able to get up from the groundf, ONE or both of us is going to the hospital. I'm sorry, but everything about this man and this incident smells of a deliberate act. There was NOTHING Christian about his actions on that day, and based on the facts that are surfacing about him, I doubt there's anything Christian about him on any other day, unless it's the attitude that so many Christians carry aound that their way is the only right way, that any acton is reasonable to make their point.

tjones1
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tjones1 02/10/11 - 03:31 pm
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.

.

censorshipiswrong
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censorshipiswrong 02/10/11 - 03:37 pm
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I will give you that, it is

I will give you that, it is reduculous. I don't now nor ever have condoned or commited the activities you describe. I have no agenda except to remove truly bad drivers off the road, drivers that habitually exhibit a desire to harm or cause others to feel intimidated.
I agree about the runners and walkers on the greenway, one reason a cyclist should avoid it, it's for pedestrians, or at least thats it's main use.

The roads are for all forms of transportation, reqardless that it be for destination travle or recreation. Why should a man be able to take a ride in the country in his car but I can't on my bike? Why do you worrry about getting hit from behind? followed too close by a bad driver?
No road is dangerous until someone makes it that way. A car takes up a whole lane and I get behind plenty of them every morning doing 20mph or more under the speed limit..deal with it, it is their right to drive at a speed that is comfortable to them, pass when its safe to and leave them be..there are no minimum limits set on all roads, only highways that cyclist cannot use.
You want to talk about junk? go around the room and see how many of your friends really DO know the traffic laws...try that.

You would say anything to get bikes off the road, simple as that so you don't have to be afraid of being careful or safe, that way you can just do what you want, right? I don't want to give any driver a hard time, but being tormented by your kind just because I choose to ride rather than drive all the time is my choice and I will not let you take it away.

Matt's gone, and many more like him, they all died because of poor drivers...now THATS riduculous!! How about you work on doing something about that! then we can all have a better day.

tjones1
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tjones1 02/10/11 - 03:39 pm
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If you have equal rights to

If you have equal rights to the road than pay taxes on your bike just like I do on my car,and go atleast the minimum speed limit. I think Im going to start riding my lawn mower down 278. No you don't pay the same taxes to occupy, I have to pay for every vehicle I have, and I am smart enought not to ride my bike down the roads that are even dangerous to drive cars on. You shouldn't start throwing accusations around that someone did something on purpose, just because of past actions. I thought those didn't mean anything.

localbusinessowner
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localbusinessowner 02/10/11 - 03:51 pm
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Ok, where did the christian

Ok, where did the christian debate come in from? The fact that the lawyer talked about him teaching sunday school? That's what you say when your in court, you list the good things about yourself. Oh my gosh, this thing goes from murder, to hit and run, to he did it on purpose, to everyone is out for bikers, that one life is worth more than another, etc. It was a tragic accident that injured many and killed a wonderful person and ruined 2 families forever. Christians, Pagans, Atheists, whatever, anything can happen to anyone, put yourself in the other persons shoes and try to see the tragedy for all involved.

Iamacyclist
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Iamacyclist 02/10/11 - 04:38 pm
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tjones1, your the type us

tjones1, your the type us cyclists are scared of and Aiken County needs to protect us from.

Btw, Beech Island Blvd, particularly where the (alledged) crime was committed is one of the safest roads in Aiken County; that is unless you live on it. Heck, I would even drive my own car down that road; safely too, and i don't even live on that road.

AND TO BORNINAUG: "And just because it is LEGAL to ride on the roadway, is it the safest place to ride? OR, are there better places than others to ride?" There are very few roads in the CSRA better than Beech Island Blvd to ride!

Only Mr. Johnson will ever know the real truth; he will have to live with this for his lifetime. Per those involved with the incident, he told many different truths until he settled on the final "I was distracted bending over for something" truth.

censorshipiswrong
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censorshipiswrong 02/10/11 - 04:14 pm
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Maybe if for once you saw it

Maybe if for once you saw it from the other side of your windshield you would begin to realize how little of a problem a cyclist really is compared to all the bad drivers. I dare you to try to see the other side.

None of us have ever hurt you, but we get it all the time, Why? The truth is you just cant see clear as to how easy it really is to work with cyclist, its more your nature to bully people and push your opinions and your "rights" on them, but you always try to make it turned around.

Matt's death is one of many, none of them should have happened. all of them involved a driver. some did not do anything wrong and it was the cyclist fault, some of them just did not care. I care, I don't hurt people unless they try to hurt me or others first. You want this to become peaceful, it's easy, just ride your bike around town a few times and see how it goes.

Don't come back and say..you just need to stay off the road, its dangerous out there, we know that..what I want to know is why is it so dangerous?

I have been in the persons shoes, not the bad drivers but on the receiving end and it was done on purpose and I lived. Unlike Matt.

BornInAUG
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BornInAUG 02/10/11 - 04:20 pm
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why is it dangerous? Because

why is it dangerous? Because that's the nature of vehicles. You take 3000 lb vehicles and a 200 lb bike and about 40 mph difference, I don't care if you're the best driver in the world, that's DANGEROUS. As far as paying taxes, bikes aren't registered and taxed. And also drivers of automobiles pay for roadways by purchasing gasoline. I heard on the news this morning that lawmakers are considering charging drivers of electric vehicles a per mile rate, or a once a year rate to cover this tax that they avoid by not paying for gas.

I don't have anything against cyclist, but I think the thing that is hard for non-cyclist to understand is that YES 100% of bike/car accidents could be avoided if cyclists were not on the roadway with cars. Now, I know that cyclists are not just going to stay off the road, but I guess my point is that every cyclists is aware of the danger of riding with much larger/faster vehicles. And just because it is LEGAL to ride on the roadway, is it the safest place to ride? OR, are there better places than others to ride? I think that there are definitely two aspects, and I can see both sides. The first, why are bikes on roads designed for cars. The second, why are drivers so dangerous? The bikes want the vehicles to pay more attention and the drivers of vehicles are wondering why they're there to begin with.

During B.R.A.G., Tour de France, Ironman, etc...they close off these roadways to vehicles for the participants safety. I have seen competitive cyclists get hurt after colliding with other cyclists. I think this is a tragic event, and completely avoidable by both parties, but sad nonetheless. Prayers for all involved.

Captain Awesome
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Captain Awesome 02/10/11 - 04:28 pm
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He hit FIVE cyclists... it's

He hit FIVE cyclists... it's not like they were all side by side. They ride one behind the other and are often spread out. You'd think after hitting the first one he would have either breaked or at least let off the gas. And by the way, you'll probably see more cyclists as gas continues to go up and people keep losing jobs.

BornInAUG
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BornInAUG 02/10/11 - 04:33 pm
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I'm not defending the man,

I'm not defending the man, simply stating my opinion. And like I said, I can see both sides. At SRS a truck hit something like 12 wild pigs. I thought that wasn't possible, until I saw the pictures.

Now, I don't know how they were riding that day, or what the circumstances were. The only point I wanted to bring up, is if you are voluntarily participating in an event that is known to be dangerous, aren't you (even to some extent) negligent yourself? When I get in my car every day, I know that I am taking a risk, being on the road with other drivers. That risk is even greater when you're on a bike. It is always easy to say what someone else could/should do, but the only thing you control are the decisions/choices YOU make.

burninater
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burninater 02/10/11 - 04:48 pm
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"If you have equal rights to

"If you have equal rights to the road than pay taxes on your bike just like I do on my car,and go atleast the minimum speed limit."
--------------
Sorry tjones, that argument is hogwash. Every year, Georgia and South Carolina receive federal highway funds. This means that vehicle taxes do NOT cover the full cost of maintaining roads, and drivers are therefore receiving SUBSIDIES from the rest of our tax dollars.

Bike lanes are cheaper to install and maintain than full roadways, meaning that your car driving is more of a tax drain than if you are a cyclist.

BornInAUG
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BornInAUG 02/10/11 - 04:52 pm
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Iamacyclist: I'm simply

Iamacyclist: I'm simply making a statement about the danger of roads in general. I would think it would be much safer to combine cyclists and pedestrians, than cyclists and automobiles. They're closer in weight, and speed. I think if we combined walking with cycling, there would definitely be a reduction in car/bike collisions, and I would argue a reduction in accidents for cyclists period. Or how about someone who is avid in the sport creating a park with courses and charging memberships or one time use fees. I like to ride ATV's and I either go to a friends land or go to designated tracks. My 4 wheeler does speeds close to car speeds, and has lights on it, but I still don't drive it on a roadway, and wouldn't even if it was legal, due to the posed hazards.

censorshipiswrong
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censorshipiswrong 02/10/11 - 04:56 pm
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Where is it written that

Where is it written that roads are made for cars? the first paved road in the USA was paved for the use of bicycles! Roads are adapted to allow cars to use them as safely as possible, the bicycle is far from and outdated form of travel. just not as conveinient as a car and cant hold al the passengers or groceries.

Roads are built to allow multiple types of vehicles and the speed limits are LIMITS not an order that all vehicles using the road must go that fast, where do you prople come up with this stuff...oh thats right, I forgot, when without actual reason or cause, RATIONALIZE!

Yes, drivers are inherently dangerous, bikes on the other hand are not...maybe cars should be taxed even more considering the damage they cause, the lives they cost, the families they destroy, oh, maybe theres a hint as to why SC car insurance is one of the highest in the country and a recent article in USA Today pointed out that SC is in the top 20 worst states to drive in! (Bicycle dangers were not mentioned in the article, sorry)
And the choices drivers make, well they kill 40-50,000 people a year. Bicycles accounted for none. you just don't get it, bad drivers kill people, not cyclist! most of the time there is not a bike in site so just stop, it's rubbish and wrong.

random1
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random1 02/10/11 - 05:02 pm
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ummmm, I'm almost positive

ummmm, I'm almost positive Danny Johnson has had more than his fair share of sleep-full nights since October 1st. According to his facebook page that it seems now is completely private. He had plenty of posts since then about having a great time here or there. Oh well.

Martin D
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Martin D 02/10/11 - 05:06 pm
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like i said earlier it is a

like i said earlier it is a great tragedy and a great loss.. yes both families are in pain!!!Have any of you ever been involved where another persons life has been taken by something that did??? well i have!! 17 yrs U.S. army.. Iraq and Afghanistan, i had to do what i had to do but it still bothers me every day. i know your gopnna say it has nothing to do with the death of Dr.Burke. but actually i know what Mr. Johnson is goin through!!! One more thing, to aiken county, i know you are looking at this! why would you fire an employee for a non work related accident ? Do you not stand behind your employees? I think that is really uncalled for. I am so glad i do not work for the county or live in it!... i wouldnt know who to trust or who to call if i was having a problem!!!

Name Not Important
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Name Not Important 02/10/11 - 05:31 pm
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I ride my bike but I usually

I ride my bike but I usually do it through the back roads in my neighborhood where there is the least amount of traffic. I don't get why some cyclists think they need to ride down the middle of the busiest roads. I've been stuck behind cyclists going 10 mph on Deans Bridge, Washington Rd, Walton Way, etc...

I mean no offense AT ALL but when you're riding a bike on road where the speed limit is anywhere from 45-55mph you're taking your life into your own hands. I've even seen idiots riding down the middle of Hwy 56 at NIGHT with no reflectors or anything on them. I know many cyclists do follow the rules and wear the right reflective gear and whatnot. But some of them I've seen are just down right stupid as well. I'm not saying Mr. Burke was at all. I'm just making an observation. That is all.

There have been numerous times that I have seen someone cycling on a busy road and wonder to myself "why, out of all places would someone ride a bike HERE". I believe that this was an accident, and it should be a lesson to those who do cycle to respect a thousand pound automobile traveling on highly traveled roads and likewise car drivers should respect the bike riders as well.

censorshipiswrong
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censorshipiswrong 02/10/11 - 05:35 pm
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Nothing good is coming from

Nothing good is coming from this debate, as usual. Nothing good will come from such an incident, it's lose/lose. Maybe if everyone could just see that we mean no harm, and don't want to be harmend out of malice. Then we could start to work things out.

You accuse us of hating drivers like Johnson, he gave us reason to over the last few years, even if you don't care to beleive it , it's true. but we never hated, we never threatened, or chased you with a bat, or threw beer bottles at you when we passed. We just did not hurt you.

You want some good to come from this, ok here is my pledge: I will always follow to the best of my ability, the laws of the state i am riding in. I will read the laws and follow them. I will always ride as far to the right as practicible unless avoiding road hazards, i will always give the right of way at stops signs and lights. I will not ride up beside you at traffic lights, you will not need to pass me twice. i will not harrass you, I will not become a problem on bike/pedestrian paths, i will always give the pedestrian the right of way. I will always show the motorist due respect. This is my pledge.

And MartinD, I served too, as did Matt, and many other riders.

Could I hope that any of you would be willing to make the same type of pledge?

cheetobandito
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cheetobandito 02/10/11 - 06:19 pm
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Why in God's name was no

Why in God's name was no Ethanol Breath Test administered at the scene?
Why was no urine or blood drug screen obtained? Had this been done the question of culpability might have been resolved. What relationship was there if any between the investigating officer and Mr. Johnson.? Did he get a "pass" as some have suspected? Has there been an Internal Affairs investigation of the way this case was handled? Does this case reek of
the "Good Old Boy" system. In response to Mr. Johnson's lawyer's remonstrations, one might also hasten to add that the BTK
killer in Kansas was also a Sunday School Teacher. Equal Justice Under Law Should Apply to Victims as well as Suspects , especially in cases such as this where there may be a delayed, yet tragic, outcome. If "past bad acts" are inadmissable in some courts, why should "past good acts" so easily mitigate a tragedy? C.B.

snoopy
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snoopy 02/10/11 - 06:38 pm
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This was a unfortunate

This was a unfortunate accident. Under the post new comment it states that comments are to enable respectful conversation not for personal attacks. I think many should be ashamed for taking this oppurtunity to express their anger and supporting their bias opinions with out right lies! Lets be a little less selfish and understand that this tragic accident has brought pain to both sides of the family. Each side needs support and posting statements that are not true does not give comfort to either side. I know only what I read about Matt that he was a good person. I'm sure his family would like some respect not all these ridiculous arguments. For have you ever known arguments and lies to bring comfort and healing? Give the families the oppurtnity to have peace. I do know the driver and his family and they are good people. They pray for Matts family ever day. For the lies, the driver did not leave the scene and yes he did offer first aid. He did not do this deliberately! Just think about it. Who would deliberately run someone over? Don't use this accident to argue who is right and who is wrong. Because if you do, then you are the one who is wrong. And hopefully you can sleep at night.

ABCDEFG
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ABCDEFG 02/10/11 - 08:11 pm
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Yes, snoopy, no one accuses

Yes, snoopy, no one accuses Mr. Johnson of deliberately trying to run anyone over. I have followed this story for months and know many party involved; not a one thinks it was premeditated vehicular slaughter. However, sometimes things happen unintentionally from actions we take that are either grossly negligent or are the unintended consequences of acts of anger, rage, irritation, or not having all our normal physical reaction reflexes. One guy at work asked why in the world would Mr. Johnson not demand a sobriety test after the incident to prove that he was clean. Don't know......

But the fact is, from the information I have heard from various parties involved, from my experience as a cyclist, and my familiarity with that road and the residents of that road, the probability of what happened fits the charges that the state of SC has filed against Mr. Johnson.

The private investigators Paul Burke, Dr. Burke's brother, hired have done a great job in presenting the County with sufficient evidence to support this case. When the truth comes out, those of you thinking this was a pure accident or mistake will offer the victims of this alleged crime your condolences and apology.

I wish Mr. Johnson the best however, I am sure he has suffered tremendously. But this disregard for cyclist rights and lives has to stop. I am not sure what the Burke families' desires are, but maybe the courts will show Mr. Johnson some mercy and leniency.

My thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Burke, his wife, his precious daughter, his family and friends and his buds in the cycling community. We have lost a great guy; hopefully, we will all learn from this tragedy.

Andikiros
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Andikiros 02/10/11 - 08:20 pm
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Captain Awesome, The laws of

Captain Awesome,
The laws of physics cannot be suspended because you say so. How can Mr. Johnson have hit 5 people? If, as was reported by some of the cyclists, that they were riding 2 abreast, then Mr. Johnson, in order to hit 5 people, would have to drive over 3 to 4 people, at least. If this is the case, we should have had more fatalities. I will tell you this, since you need to be enlightened: I say the group a few minutes before the accident occurred. They were riding neither in single file, nor 2 abreast. If there were 15 of them, do the math. The law of physics do not change to suit this situation.

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