Plea means 90-day sentence in cyclist death

Daniel Johnson had faced a charge of reckless homicide in the death of Matthew Burke.

AIKEN — A Beech Island man accused of fatally injuring an Eisenhower hospital surgeon while he was cycling will be sentenced today after pleading guilty Monday to involuntary manslaughter.

Daniel Johnson was to be tried on a charge of reckless homicide in connection with the Oct. 1, 2010, wreck that killed Maj. Matthew Burke, 38, an orthopedic surgeon at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Cen­ter, who died in February from his injuries. Four other cyclists were injured.

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.”

Johnson changed his mind a couple times during Monday’s hearing. He initially agreed to a guilty plea, then asked for a jury trial but later returned to the plea deal.

The plea gives John­son, a former em­ployee of Aiken County Emer­gency Man­age­ment, 90 days in jail, five years probation and revocation of his driver’s license.

Sen­tenc­ing was delayed to give the Burke family, including Burke’s widow, Bonnie Burke, a chance to speak.

Aiken County Judge Jack Early told Johnson that his attorney, Jim Huff, had gone to “extreme lengths” to come up with a solution that gives appropriate punishment while also taking into account Johnson’s lack of a criminal background.

The resolution does not include restitution or fines, but reserves the right for the Burke family to pursue civil action against Johnson or anyone else involved in the case.