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Plea means 90-day sentence in cyclist death

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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 had faced a charge of reckless homicide in the death of Matthew Burke.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Daniel Johnson had faced a charge of reckless homicide in the death of Matthew Burke.


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.

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augusta citizen
9939
Points
augusta citizen 10/17/11 - 04:33 pm
0
0
This has been such a tragedy

This has been such a tragedy from the beginning. An innocent bicyclist dead, leaving a wife and baby. A motorist that I've never thought intended any harm, he said he was distracted. Just very sad for all involved and for the community.

Riverman1
90181
Points
Riverman1 10/17/11 - 04:36 pm
0
0
I'm curious what loss of

I'm curious what loss of driver's license means? Forever? Or is it common practice to get the license back after a few years?

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 10/17/11 - 06:52 pm
0
0
I think the plea deal is a

I think the plea deal is a fair offer from his POV. In a moment of carelessness he took someone's life. 90 days confinement and 5 years probation doesn't seem too steep for that IMO.

raul
5500
Points
raul 10/17/11 - 07:16 pm
0
0
Channel 12 says the deal is 5

Channel 12 says the deal is 5 years in jail and 5 years probation. The AC says 90 days in jail, 5 years probation, and loss of license. So, what is the real deal?

Riverman1
90181
Points
Riverman1 10/17/11 - 07:25 pm
0
0
I'm pretty sure the 90 days

I'm pretty sure the 90 days is accurate. They can't keep someone in jail 5 years. That would be a prison sentence. I still have the question of how long does he actually lose his license?

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 10/17/11 - 11:56 pm
0
0
And I bet you thought that

And I bet you thought that "South Georgia 'justice'" was the ultimate in judicial oxymorons.

Can't believe my friends will take this sentence lying down.

ConcernedTaxpayer
28
Points
ConcernedTaxpayer 10/18/11 - 02:48 am
0
0
I don't know the

I don't know the circumstances in this case, but I have seen bicyclists ride two abreast on a highway where there is no passing for miles and with much traffic flowing in the opposite way. They refuse to pull off the road to let traffic pass. It is downright exasperating when that happens and you have an appointment to make.

Terry454
0
Points
Terry454 10/18/11 - 07:03 am
0
0
Augusta Citizen, I agree a

Augusta Citizen, I agree a total tradegy but if Johnson had intended to do harm the charge would have been murder. If a reasonable person can see that their actions can cause harm, then a crime has been committed. Distracted is not a sufficent defense.

Concerned Taxpayer, I can appreciate that cyclist slow motorist but so do log trucks, school buses and trains. One must take unforseen obstacles into account during any trip. I wish everyone would just leave a few minutes early and keep themselves and others alive. Legally we all share the roads and streets.

While the sentence is not as harsh as I would have like to seen, Johnson is now a felon and the Burke family have a leg up in civil court since Johnson as admitted to being a criminal. Now a felon, Johnson has to bear the burden of that criminal record.

I wish Dr. Burke was alive, healing others, enjoying his family and riding his bike. I also wish Johnson would have not been "distracted" or exaperated or angry that cyclist were slowing him down. The cyclist he hit know his intent as does he. Very sorry that all this unnecessary heartache for both families is unfolding. I hope drivers now see that cyclist are legally allowed to ride the roads and killing one has some repercussions.

stillamazed
1488
Points
stillamazed 10/18/11 - 08:41 am
0
0
Several people on here since

Several people on here since the beginning of this have played this man up to be a monster and claimed he did not care what he did. I understand that emotions run high in these types of situations and I do not personally know this man, but I know someone who knows him and his family and they said that not only him but his entire family was very distraught about this horrible accident. Sadly nothing will bring Dr. Burke back and this should be a lesson to people to be more careful on the roads and allow all vehicles their space. When my uncle was 20 years old and had just got his job with DOD he accidentally hit a man at a railroad crossing on a back road, the man was on one of those things that used to go down the train tracks doing inspections, it was an accident but his family wanted my uncle to be charged with involuntary manslaughter (he wasn't) he never saw the man coming due to vegetation that had grown on the side of the road. My uncle never forgot that incident for the rest of his life, he told me that even though it was an accident that he would never forget that man, I am sure that Mr. Johnson will never forget either. He will get the sentence that the court gives him but I doubt he will ever be the same again.

maddog
27
Points
maddog 10/18/11 - 09:21 am
0
0
It's against the law for

It's against the law for motorcycles to ride side by side in the same lane. I don't know if it's the same with bicycles, but that is common practice for the bicyclists riding between Beech Island and Jackson. They are a major traffic hazard. I'm surprised there aren't many more deaths in this area.

IsAnyoneAlwaysRight
40
Points
IsAnyoneAlwaysRight 10/19/11 - 08:39 am
0
0
In my thoughts and prayers.

In my thoughts and prayers.

Little Lamb
47857
Points
Little Lamb 10/18/11 - 10:40 am
0
0
Yes, it is legal for

Yes, it is legal for bicyclists to ride two abreast on streets and highways, but no more than two. There were allegations published that there were more than two abreast when the accident occurred. The article says that the cyclists were in the road legally, but since there was a plea deal instead of a trial, I guess the eyewitnesses that say the cyclists were not riding legally will never be heard.

rdbike
57
Points
rdbike 10/18/11 - 01:13 pm
0
0
So a human life is only worth

So a human life is only worth 90 days in jail, seems like such a miscarriage of justice. Then to add salt to the wound, he gets to do his 90 days on weekends. I guess the courts believe that running down a person on a bicycle is no big deal. The 90 days is just a slap on the wrist. The judge should turn in his resignation and hang his head in shame for the rest of his life.

TakeAHike
191
Points
TakeAHike 10/18/11 - 04:05 pm
0
0
Compelling details of the

Compelling details of the case were recounted during the sentencing hearing that even I wasn't aware of. Do I believe he is a monster? Yes and no. We were a neon, multi-colored 100+ foot long string lit up with bright red flashing LED strobe lights on a mile long straightaway. For less than a minute, I do believe he succumbed to road rage. We may never know his true intention and if it exceeds the limit of the statute of which he was convicted, at this point he may not even be able to admit it to himself. This isn't just about bikes. Road rage is horribly prevalent in this area. I am a victim of it both while on the bike and in my van. Big pickups and SUVs tailgate me because I won't go 60 mph on a narrow two lane road marked 45-55, or they go around me and cut me off because I won't go 75 mph on I-20. Drivers who drive that way caused two tanker crashes recently that resulted in injuries and messy and dangerous fuel spills. (We as taxpayers ultimately paid for the cleaned up.) Even if the drivers didn't intend to injure or kill someone all of these incidents are not mere accidents. Any time you intentionally drive too close to another motor vehicle, cyclist, or pedestrian to vent your frustration or to make a point you are being reckless and you have no regard for the lives of others. If you should cause a crash and a death then by the definition of the law, you are guilty of a felony. People have argued that this incident could have been caused by anyone. That is indeed true if you let road rage get the best of you. I hope drivers will finally take that fact to heart. Drive safely everyone.

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 10/18/11 - 09:37 pm
0
0
Yes Whitty, they are also

Yes Whitty, they are also calling for blood assuming facts that aren't in evidence. If there had been a witness that could attest he appeared to deliberately plow the group I would agree that he should go to jail for a long time. I just don't believe it was a deliberate act.

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 10/18/11 - 11:37 pm
0
0
Whitty, of course not; this

Whitty, of course not; this scene is played out again and again on all fronts every day. Let's not imply "black"though; if it was po' white trash the result would be the same as if it was Daquan. If it had been a minority physician, the outcry would have been as it was for Dr. Burke. It has to do with your social status, who you know, who gets behind your situation with a voice that will be heard; not your race.

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