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Driver in fatal drunken driving crash pleads guilty

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 6:02 PM
Last updated Thursday, May 15, 2014 1:09 AM
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An Augusta man whose drunken driving crash killed a woman and cost him both of his legs pleaded guilty to criminal charges Wednesday.

Michael L. Johnston, 44, had six prior arrests for driving under the influence before the March 4, 2013, crash on Morningside Drive that killed 41-year-old Kathleen Gilmer.

Johnston’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash was .203, more than double the level at which a driver is presumed to be too intoxicated to drive. He was driving so fast when he hit a tree that Gilmer, who was wearing a seat belt, was partially ejected from the vehicle, said Assistant District Attorney Rex Myers. The vehicle was on fire when emergency personnel arrived to find Gilmer dead and Johnston severely injured, Myers said.

Wednesday, Johnston pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to vehicular homicide, driving on a suspended license, weaving, driving too fast for conditions and possession of an open container of an alcoholic beverage.

Gale Belcher told the judge she had waited a very long time for Johnston to take responsibility for her daughter’s death. She was a very loving person, Belcher said of her daughter, and she left behind three children.

“So many lives have been changed forever,” Belcher said.

Defense attorney Rahmaan Bowick of the public defender’s office told the judge that Johnston has always wanted to take responsibility for the fatal crash. And Johnston wants his story to make a difference in other’s people lives. He has already spoken with the Richmond County accountability court, an alternative to traditional punishment for DUI, Bowick said.

“This is (a) losing situation for everyone,” Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet said.

He sentenced Johnston to six years in prison followed by four years probation, and imposed a $1,000 fine. Johnston has until May 23 to report to the jail.

Comments (5) Add comment
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jmo
16213
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jmo 05/15/14 - 05:43 am
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0
Everyone....

lost in this situation; some more than others. Sad.

itsanotherday1
43649
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itsanotherday1 05/15/14 - 08:35 am
4
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Six prior DUI arrests? It is

Six prior DUI arrests? It is a tragedy that MAY not have had to happen if the courts had done their job.

Time after time you see these situations resulting from drivers so sloshed, BAC >.150, they are staggering. I don't like the harsh punishment for .08 drivers that haven't demonstrated impairment, but first offenders that are >.150 should have to sit in the pokey for a week or two at a minimum. They are the ones in need of serious intervention.

jimmymac
41027
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jimmymac 05/15/14 - 08:51 am
0
0
PUNISHMENT
Unpublished

The man lost both his legs and a woman died. Although he's suffered for his actions the death of the woman should have warranted a stronger sentence. A drunk driving with six DUI's should have a the book thrown at him. Six years isn't nearly enough for his wanton behavior.

corgimom
33146
Points
corgimom 05/15/14 - 09:45 am
1
1
He was an accident waiting to

He was an accident waiting to happen, and it did.

Too bad an innocent person was killed.

The drunks don't stop until they are imprisoned.

rmwhitley
5547
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rmwhitley 05/15/14 - 05:34 pm
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A mother,
Unpublished

daughter and three grandchildren are the ultimate losers.

Beachgal
365
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Beachgal 05/15/14 - 07:19 pm
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Six years in prison??

Six previous DUI's and vehicular homicide, and the man gets 6 years in prison? What is wrong with this picture?

Willow Bailey
20593
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Willow Bailey 05/16/14 - 07:20 am
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0
A "combination" of what IAD

A "combination" of what IAD and Corgi said.
My deepest condolences to Katherine Gilmer's family.

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