The oldest of five juveniles whose October escape from the Augusta Youth Development Campus helped prompt an overhaul in management and staff at the facility pleaded guilty to the breakout Thursday.
Wayne Johnson, 19, pleaded guilty to escape and theft in Richmond County Superior Court. He entered an Alford plea and no contest pleas to charges of fleeing or attempting to elude an officer, reckless driving, driving on the wrong side of a road and driving without a license.
An Alford plea means a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges enough evidence exists for conviction.
Judge Michael N. Annis sentenced Johnson to two years in prison followed by 10 years on probation.
Johnson said he and four other juveniles were alone and unsupervised the night of Oct. 19 and just decided to leave.
He said they made it out of the building, scaled a barbed-wire fence and took off running from the facility on Mike Padgett Highway.
They stole a car in the 1700 block of Tobacco Road. Later that night, a Richmond County sheriff’s deputy spotted the vehicle and gave chase when it wouldn’t stop. After the car wrecked, three of the escapees were arrested and two got away.
Johnson, who was arrested two days later, told an investigator he was driving, but on Thursday he testified that he took the blame to spare another juvenile from additional charges.
Escape and theft charges are pending against Kendrick Johnson, 18, who is no relation to Wayne Johnson. He has pleaded not guilty.
Three younger juveniles accused of taking part in the escape – ages 15 and 16 at the time – were prosecuted in Juvenile Court, Assistant District Attorney Sam Nicholson said.