Crime & Courts

Richmond Co. | Columbia Co. | Aiken Co. |

No plea bargain in death of bicyclist

  • Follow Crime & courts

AIKEN --- No plea bargain will be offered to the motorist who police say struck and fatally injured bicyclist Dr. Matthew Burke.

Daniel Johnson: Former EMT has been charged with reckless homicide in the death of Dr. Matthew Burke.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Daniel Johnson: Former EMT has been charged with reckless homicide in the death of Dr. Matthew Burke.

The defendant, Daniel Johnson, was excused from his second court appearance Friday, said Strom Thurmond Jr., the solicitor for South Carolina's 2nd Circuit.

The court appearance is a chance for the prosecution and defense to negotiate a plea bargain before trial but in this case, none was offered. The case will now go to trial unless Johnson chooses to plead guilty.

Johnson, 41, is charged with reckless homicide in a crash that led to Burke's death.

About 6:40 p.m. Oct. 1, a group of 15 cyclists, including Burke, was riding from Augusta through South Carolina. According to police, the cyclists were northbound on Beech Island Avenue when Johnson, who lives nearby, struck Burke and four other cyclists from the rear with his Dodge Durango.

Burke, an orthopedic surgeon at Fort Gordon, suffered critical head injuries and died nearly five months later.

Johnson, a former EMT who works for Aiken County Emergency Management, has no prior criminal record. He remains free on a $50,000 bond.

Comments (45) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
WoodyKaminer
2
Points
WoodyKaminer 06/11/11 - 02:45 am
0
0
I thought this was an

I thought this was an accident. I am sorry the Dr. died, its a tragedy. Just seems a little steep for this guy to not be offered a PB. Im not defending what he did because I dont know the facts. It just seems murderers who intentionally kill people get a chance for a PB. Must be more to it than we know.

Gpoulter
0
Points
Gpoulter 06/11/11 - 02:59 am
0
0
I am glad that the courts and

I am glad that the courts and prosecutors are giving this the appropriate attention.

Iamacyclist
0
Points
Iamacyclist 06/11/11 - 06:10 am
0
0
Who was thinking this was an

Who was thinking this was an accident? No way!

nofrills
0
Points
nofrills 06/11/11 - 06:42 am
0
0
Im sorry the good Doctor

Im sorry the good Doctor died, Mr. Johnson is a good man who made a mistake. The bikers should of stay in their own state instead of picking Beech Island Ave to ride on. its narrow and is dangerous for cars. Why would you ride a bike without bike lanes. I know Mr. Johnson will have to stand accountable but not to offer a plea deal when you offer thugs deals. what is wrong with Strom Thurmond Jr?

markcanipe
0
Points
markcanipe 06/11/11 - 08:03 am
0
0
This was, completely, an

This was, completely, an accident. This man did not speed up and hit these bikers. He did not chase them down to hit them. When you are on a 20 pound bike in a 4000 pound car lane accidents can and will happen. The car always wins! The only reason this case has gotten the attention it has is because of the deceased doctor's family member - an attorney general! PERIOD!

caringmom64
0
Points
caringmom64 06/11/11 - 08:54 am
0
0
I am SOOOO glad you clarified

I am SOOOO glad you clarified that family member Mark..I've been following this since day 1 and have wondered WHY???? all the attention and animosity...I mean, its being made to look like Daniel "sped up" and"plowed" these cyclist down....COME ON!!! He made a mistake....I don't know either party, but I do know that people have accidents everyday. This man was driving along a long, winding back road that is normally fairly quiet...Not the norm to to see kids, cyclists, etc on the road..again..narrow road with NO sidewalks...He probably looked up and was caught by surprise himself..no where have i read that there was drugs or alcohol involved so why the harsh treatment..I've seen cases where these things were a factor and the hatred hasn't gone on like this...I'm sure Daniel is hurting himself inside. I don't think it was his intention to ever harm another. My dad hit a pedestrian when I was in highschool. That's been over 25 years ago and I still can hear the sound of it...It tore my dad up, but he came around a curve and the man was there..Unavoidable. It happens.

I feel bad for the wife and little girl that lost their loved one, but is it really going to help bring him back by continually bagering and belittling Daniel???? this man has a family also. Do they deserve to lose their loved one?
To continue with comments like "some cyclists are afraid to ride anymore"?? and from iamacyclist---"Who was thinking this was an accident? No way!", Did YOU SEE DANIEL DELIBERATELY RUN OVER ANY OF YOU????? So how do you know??
Ya'll "cyclists" need to get on with life and STOP this drama...Daniel needs to be charged NORMALLY as anyone else and be allowed to get on with his life...as best he can after all these fingers pointing and accusations....Leave him alone and let him pay his debt, like any of the rest of us from speeding tickets to vehicular homicide..He has rights too!!
I really think i have a sick place in my stomach for "cyclists" now..

daddo
0
Points
daddo 06/11/11 - 09:40 am
0
0
Question for caring: Why no

Question for caring: Why no field sobriety or drug test?
Also why was Mr Johnson fired from Aiken County ?
Rumor is he was using his access at the ACSO to find information on Dr Burke and his family. I understand your concern about Dr Burke's family influencing this case but if you look at this event objectively any regular person would have been arrested at the scene and had drug and alcohol screening done on them.(due to the severity of the injuries to Dr Burke and the fact that multiple cyclist were injured)
You are right about one thing Dr Burke has a daughter who never know her father( who on top of being an accomplished doctor was also a decorated soldier and officer in the United States Army) and that is the true tragedy

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 06/11/11 - 09:46 am
0
0
An accident is an accident

An accident is an accident and that is the way I would see it if I was on a jury unless something else was shown. I could care less who his family members are.

caringmom64
0
Points
caringmom64 06/11/11 - 10:03 am
0
0
No it's not standard

No it's not standard procedure to ARREST someone at the scene for an accident unless it is suspected there is other influences involved. my dad wasn't arrested. The officer responding to the call obviously didn't see any signs of or suspect drug/alcohol involvement..
In fact, a very close family friend was just hit and killed last month up 25 and had extensive head trauma and broken bones and that
driver wasn't arrested or tested...also a couple months ago a CHILD was hit and killed (thrown a long way) with extensive head injuries in front of his older brother (who now blames himself as I am told by a close friend of that family) by a SPEEDING driver and that driver hasn't received all the public hatred, humiliation and crucifying that Daniel has received.
Again..I am very sorry that this tragedy has happened, but just because Dr Burke was so decorated and such a great Dr doesn't mean he deserves any more justice than the poor homeless man that got hit. He is NO BETTER in the eyes of God...
In fact..If Dr. Burke was such a great and honorable man that he is being portrayed to be, I don't believe he would want this crucifiction that is going on..He would want Daniel to be charged according to the law, allowed to pay his debt and then go on with his life...

caringmom64
0
Points
caringmom64 06/11/11 - 10:13 am
0
0
oh yea and BTW.....I'd want

oh yea and BTW.....I'd want to know information and try to find out what I was up against too if I was being crucified by someone like Daniel is..That's common sense
Exactly WW...God created us all equal in his eyes....I wish this thing had a "like" button like Facebook...

ricker9
0
Points
ricker9 06/11/11 - 10:25 am
0
0
It's been said that this

It's been said that this accident happened on a long, straight, flat section of road. Does anyone know if that is factual? That could have some bearing on why all the animosity towards Mr. Johnson if it's true.

caringmom64
0
Points
caringmom64 06/11/11 - 10:50 am
0
0
Idk but it still...no matter

Idk but it still...no matter doesn't warrant all this hatred and animosity towards this man. Anything could've contributed to this tragedy. Unless Daniel was under the influence or deliberately ran these cyclist down, there is no reason to treat him this way. Accidents do happen. We are all human and make mistakes we regret later. I'm sure he is also beating himself up.

Gpoulter
0
Points
Gpoulter 06/11/11 - 01:27 pm
0
0
I think there are a few

I think there are a few points that need that to be clarified as the comments are popping up with no real evolution of thought since last fall. I am one of Matt’s long time friends. We grew up together. Just to be clear, I am not part of his immediate family, and I do not presume to speak for them. I hope my perspective is helpful.

There seems to be concern that Mr. Johnson does not deserve the scrutiny that he has received. Early after the accident, there was real concern that the Highway Patrol was not taking this accident seriously. We all felt that as a fellow human being that Matt Burke deserved the protections we all deserve under the law. I know there was much discussion about Matt’s achievements and contributions as a doctor and a father. He was not more deserving because of his life’s work, but it added to our frustrations when there was concern he would not have a descent investigation. Our system of government and laws should work for every citizen. The police and courts are doing there work and if this goes as far as a trial, Mr. Johnson will be judged by his peers. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, my friend is not coming back. However, I find great comfort in knowing that the State of South Carolina is taking his death seriously, and that the process of the law is being followed.

With respect to whether or not the accident was intentional. I think this is no longer an issue. As far as I understand the nature of the charges, a charge of reckless homicide does not assume that there was intent. I have been to the spot where Matt was hit. It is a long straight portion of road. It also narrow with no shoulder. It is a small space for cars and bikes to share, but I do think it is odd and reckless that Mr. Johnson did not see such a large group of riders. He would have to have been distracted to the point of negligence for a long time before the impact.

How much responsibility did Matt share for his death? With respect to the accident itself, it has been determined that Matt's actions did not contribute to the accident. He was not at fault. We assume risks every time we drive a car, fly in an airplane, ride a bike or walk out our front door. I am aware there is a risk to cycling. Every time we get on a road with cars, we run the risk of not coming home. The laws of physics are not on our side. I wish this was not the case. I have a 5 month old daughter, 4 year old son, beautiful wife and I followed Matt to become an orthopaedic surgeon... I think that drivers have a responsibility to be alert and share the road, but I do not know if they are paying attention and I have not been on the road with my bike since October 1.

tccarlson71
0
Points
tccarlson71 06/11/11 - 11:25 am
0
0
I am a high school classmate

I am a high school classmate of Mr. Burke, and a contemporary of Major Burke. I would like to address several inaccurate statement made regarding this article.

First, Mr. Burke is not Attorney General of the State of Utah, or any other state. He is an attorney, but the notion that inappropriate political pressure is a factor in this case is completely false. Mr. Burke seeks justice for his Brother, as would any of us.

Secondly, I have never seen the road in question, but I have seen the pictures from the crash site, and where this event occured is completely flat for over a mile. Leaving aside any conclusions that can be drawn from this, it is simply inaccurate to imply that a curvy road contributed to this event.

Thirdly there was no other oncoming traffic at the time of the event. Whether the road is busy generally or not, it clearly was not when this event occured.

Fourthly, other cyclists also struck by Mr. Johnson that day have said in this paper that they heard the engine rev just before they were struck.

The facts here make it difficult to write this off as an accident: striking 4 cyclists on a mile long straight stretch of road in full daylight with no oncoming traffic is not consistent with an accident. Mr. Johnson is entitled to his day in court and should present his defense and explain his actions.

I am not a bloodthirsty man, nor are my friends the Burke's. But, I'll be damned before I accept "it was just an accident" to explain the death of my friend in these circumstances.

wbbh
69
Points
wbbh 06/11/11 - 01:28 pm
0
0
Wow, great to know it's OK to

Wow, great to know it's OK to run over bicyclists if they are not connected. Are you people nuts? He killed a man, Doctor or not, get your heard around it truth. It is NOT OK to run someone over because they are on your way or from another state.

KSL
126828
Points
KSL 06/11/11 - 01:35 pm
0
0
Don't you mean "head?" Heard

Don't you mean "head?" Heard does sound right. The last two days I have had to defer to a "heard" of bicyclists on public streets. They were not riding single file and sharing the road, by the way. They were hogging the whole lane.

Iamacyclist
0
Points
Iamacyclist 06/11/11 - 02:57 pm
0
0
Every person I have shown the

Every person I have shown the point of impact has stated "There is NO way that guy could not have seen some or most of those 15 cyclists"! How and why he hit them, will left up to the court system. Hopefully, this guy gets the maximum punishment allowable given the charges; charges that I feel are not severe enough. In Georgia, my assistant DA friend said it would be murder.

Fiat_Lux
15135
Points
Fiat_Lux 06/11/11 - 03:04 pm
0
0
If I recall the stretch of

If I recall the stretch of road where this tragedy took place, Mr. Johnson had adequate, even more than adequate, opportunity to see the bicyclists. I personally don't believe he tried to buzz them.

At the very least, he allowed something to distract him from what should have been his absolutely primary focus: those cyclists. Regardless of his opinion about their being there on the road with him, it's far more likely that he simply wasn't even thinking about them except the way drivers usually think about road obstacles in general.

The negligence comes in because, like all of us do to each other from time to time, he almost certainly did not "see" them as actual people, his fellow men and women. With no reports of any mitigating factors, it appears clear that his mind was too much on himself and what he was about, his objective, and not enough on his surroundings. He was probably on autopilot to some degree. That is why he's charged with negligent homicide and not manslaughter or murder.

It is a basic human responsibility to be mindful of other people, and as such, it also is the law of the land, that we must not disregard the safety of other people and must avoid doing something that robs another of their life. Johnson, for whatever reason but for some span of time that terrible day, neglected to live up to that basic obligation to his fellow man. It is a tragedy for which he is responsible.

And I am very grateful I haven't injured or killed someone when I, myself, have been self-absorbed and inattentive to the people around me.

What else is there to say about this continuing sadness that isn't, or shouldn't be, beneath the dignity of decent, reasonable people?

Greg Burlingame
0
Points
Greg Burlingame 06/11/11 - 03:33 pm
0
0
Thank you latter commenters

Thank you latter commenters for your facts on the "Incident", which definatly was no accident. I too have been at the scene and at the time of impact on a similar day. Long straight stretch, sun to the back, no reason to see not the cyclists. I have also checked S.C. code of laws, and they state that drivers are to follow at a safe distance and pass safely or consequences will follow. Sadly, very sadly, my nephew lost his life, many others were injured, changing their lives. Daniel's life has changed because of his poor decision. Shall we let him go scott free for this because he has suffered enough? I think not! Have you considered my niece and grandniece? Is there suffering over? It has only just begun, as Daniel's is. Forgiveness? Yes, I believe in it and am sorry Daniel did this and perhaps there is rehab for him, but there are consequences to come and they are no where near "Crucifixion", like our Lord Jesus experienced. We also forgive "misspellers", don't we?

JesusSavesAtCitiBank
2
Points
JesusSavesAtCitiBank 06/11/11 - 03:37 pm
0
0
All of you "perfect" drivers

All of you "perfect" drivers who have never taken your eyes off the road or been distracted or never had a ticket or never been in an accident caused by you, or ran a light or a stop sign or changed lanes and almost hit someone.... This could have been you who hit this poor guy. So quit trying to make someone who made a mistake (albeit a tragic mistake) out to be a monster. I HATE the loss of this guys life. But I also hate what the driver is going through. And it could have been any of you holier than thou drivers.(originally written by AC.com user Xrev)

You people make wonderful Christians condemning Mr. Johnson. I'm not saying he needs to be coddled or anything like that. But I have to ask all of you condemning him how many of you have been driving and you looked down to change the radio? Or you got distracted by your children trying to tell you something? None of us are perfect or even perfect drivers. Get off your pedestal people and show compassion for all involved. I don't know Mr. Johnson but I bet he's racked with guilt over Mr. Burke's death(as he should and as I would be if I were in his place) and maybe he does deserve legal charges. But none of us are in any place to judge...

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Oh and let me be clear before all of you start saying "I've never lost anyone this way so I don't understand the anger and emotion behind it". You'd all be wrong. My best friend was murdered a couple of years ago. She was intentionally taken away by someone. I know what it's like to lose someone you love at the hand of another. As far as I can see Mr. Johnson didn't intentionally run Mr. Burke down and I seriously doubt he woke up that day thinking "Gee I think I'll get in my car and mow down some cyclists today" Yes it's sad. I feel for all families involved. But some of you are letting your emotions get the best of you. For a year after my friend's death I became a mean and bitter person. I hated the world. Then one day I suddenly realized me being mad at the world wasn't going to bring her back or change anything. It is easier to forgive then walk around with hate in your heart forever.

Hate is a very big, very hungry thing... with lots of sharp teeth. It will eat up your whole heart, and leave no room left for love if you allow it.

Greg Burlingame
0
Points
Greg Burlingame 06/11/11 - 03:45 pm
0
0
Your first comment blows you

Your first comment blows you right out of the water and tells all of us that you haven't seen the site, nor can you stay on the road with your eyes off the road that long, nor can you not have seen the cyclists!!

Greg Burlingame
0
Points
Greg Burlingame 06/11/11 - 04:05 pm
0
0
You need to reread my first

You need to reread my first comment, slowly!

allhans
23546
Points
allhans 06/11/11 - 04:30 pm
0
0
There were several witnesses

There were several witnesses to say that he revved up his engine before hitting the bikers...or so I hear.

KSL
126828
Points
KSL 06/11/11 - 05:12 pm
0
0
This comment has nothing to

This comment has nothing to do with the tragic incident that killed the doctor. It has to do with the attitude of a group of bicyclists that I encountered on two separate days in the Aiken area. They rode as a group and took up the full lane of traffic. No single file, no riding on the far most right side of the lane. In the one instance that I was approaching them from behind, I had to slow down and wait until I could pass them like I was passing a full sized car. Would I have done the same thing and slowed down, moving over if they were riding single filed? Yes. But to be forced by their arrogance hogging the road was a bit much.

The next day, I met a similar group (it appeared to be the same group, same size, dressed the same way, behaving the same way) on a state highway doing the exact same thing, riding as a group and taking up the full lane.

The phrase "share the road" works both ways. In no way were these people sharing the road or attempting to demonstrate they were willing to share the road.

Was it the doctor's group of cyclists out trying to create another incident or make a point? I don't know. The timing and seeing this group behaving the same way was just a bit weird.

KSL
126828
Points
KSL 06/11/11 - 05:18 pm
0
0
And by "create another

And by "create another incident" I don't mean another accident or death, just an incident.

Greg Burlingame
0
Points
Greg Burlingame 06/11/11 - 05:47 pm
0
0
Again you need to check S.C.

Again you need to check S.C. Code of Laws. Bicycles have right to travel on highways, two abreast

Iamacyclist
0
Points
Iamacyclist 06/11/11 - 05:50 pm
0
0
I wish to thank the gentlemen

I wish to thank the gentlemen in the silver pick up that stopped at the top of Herndon dairy and Silver Bluff to assist us with my friends flat tire. He was generous to give her a ride down to where we could receive assistance from other riders of the Half Ironman Course. I imagine he was from Beech Island; I wish all cyclists would be treated as graciously and respectfully by "all" of the Beech Island residents. Most are just like this gentleman, but there are a few bad apples out there who have it out for the law abiding cyclists. Thank you for your assistance sir.

We cyclist appreciate this type of exemplary patience and hospitality.

Fiat_Lux
15135
Points
Fiat_Lux 06/11/11 - 05:53 pm
0
0
Caringmom, Johnson is not

Caringmom, Johnson is not being crucified. He is being charged with a specific crime, which is a far cry from what he legitimately might have been charged with.

You might want to review what a genuine crucifixion entails, and lay off the hyperbole. Johnson may be your friend or relative and a "nice guy", but he killed someone, and it wasn't unavoidable. It was his own fault.

daddo
0
Points
daddo 06/11/11 - 06:19 pm
0
0
just a thought if he is such

just a thought if he is such a nice guy and being "crucified " why was he fired from Aiken County Emergency Preparedness on a "unrelated manor" the day he was charged.

Greg Burlingame
0
Points
Greg Burlingame 06/11/11 - 06:31 pm
0
0
S.C. Code of Laws sec.

S.C. Code of Laws sec. 56-5-3430 Rights and duties, 56-5-34-30 not more than two abreast. 56-5-3445 Harassing

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs