Man gets 8-year term in fatal hit-and-run of boy

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An Augusta man will spend eight years in prison and another 12 on probation for the hit-and-run death last year of a 12-year-old Athens boy who was bicycling near his home in Southeastern Clarke County.

A Clarke County Superior Court judge sentenced Joseph Patrick Armstrong late Wednesday afternoon, after the judge accepted a plea agreement between prosecutors and the 24-year-old Gainesville State College student.

Armstrong struck and killed Gedera Thomas early the morning of June 8, 2008, after he and friends spent the night drinking in downtown Athens. Armstrong told police he thought he had struck a dog.

The crash, not far from Thomas' home on East Whitehall Road, happened two months before Thomas was to begin sixth grade at Coile Middle School.

The boy's mother, Barbara Robinson, said Wednesday she thought Armstrong deserved a stiffer sentence, but she went along with the plea bargain because she didn't want to take the chance that he might be acquitted.

"Something is better than nothing," Robinson said.

She was glad that Armstrong took responsibility, she said, noting that he cried and asked for forgiveness at his sentencing.

"He said he wished he could take it all back," she said.

"I hope he learned his lesson, but no amount of time he gets will bring back my baby, and I'm always going to miss my baby," Robinson said.

As part of the deal, Armstrong pleaded guilty to first-degree homicide by vehicle, DUI and leaving the scene of an accident, and prosecutors dropped a second vehicular homicide count.

Judge Steve Jones ordered that during his first year of probation, Armstrong can only drive to school, work or for medical services.

Even then, his car must be equipped with a device that checks his breath for alcohol before it can start, the judge ruled.

Armstrong had a previous alcohol-related arrest, in 2004, and was sentenced to a year of probation for underage alcohol possession and using someone else's driver's license. As a condition of probation at the time, a judge ordered him into treatment at Community Mental Health Center of East Central Georgia in Augusta.

After a night of bar-hopping last summer, Armstrong made a pit stop at his home on Wakefield Terrace, off Barnett Shoals Road and about a half mile from Thomas' house, Athens-Clarke police said. He left again to drive friends to a mobile home park off Danielsville Road.

At about the same time, Thomas and his 17-year-old brother slipped out of their house and were riding their bikes to see the older brother's girlfriend on Cedar Shoals Drive.

Armstrong's truck passed the older boy, who was riding about 10 feet behind his brother, then swerved right and struck Thomas, police said.

The collision woke up the pickup's front-seat passenger, and Armstrong told him that he had struck a dog, according to police.

A tipster - someone who knew that Armstrong's pickup had been damaged and that police were investigating a fatal hit-and-run - told police that Armstrong might be involved and was bringing his truck to an auto body shop.

The police were waiting for Armstrong at the shop and arrested him.

Comments (43) Add comment
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Fiat_Lux
16246
Points
Fiat_Lux 10/01/09 - 01:17 pm
0
0
And waht about wreckless

And waht about wreckless endagerment for the 17-y-o brother who let him come with him?

sell71
0
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sell71 10/01/09 - 01:35 pm
0
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Neglect? She was probably

Neglect? She was probably fast asleep. The kids snuck out...you can't blame her at all.

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 10/01/09 - 02:49 pm
0
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Few good things happen after

Few good things happen after 11 PM, particularly when drinking alcohol and driving a vehicle are combined with the late hours. Too bad that the younger Armstrong did not take the advice of his Dad who deserves better.

pommom38
1496
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pommom38 10/01/09 - 03:10 pm
0
0
Why do parents always get

Why do parents always get dragged into discussions? Ok, so we're supposed to stay up all night making sure our kids are in the bed? Get real already. If kids are sneaking out and get into trouble, you can not always blame the parents. That's becoming habit on here.
And shame on you that say *if he wasn't out there*. How cruel can you get? Doesn't matter if he shoulda or not, no one deserves to be run over!
We can debate all day long about was the sentence right or not, the legal system will never change. Seeing it was the guys second time messing with drugs/alcohol and this time a life was taken, he should have served way more time. But justice is never fair, never will be..

EARL84
0
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EARL84 10/01/09 - 03:31 pm
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The point pom, is that a 12

The point pom, is that a 12 year old SHOULD NOT be out in the middle of the road at that hour. Obviously, one should not be DUI, NO ONE is defending that act, and of course no one deserves to get run over. However, it is not unreasonable to believe that parents will take a closer watch of a 12 year old, especially when the fact that idiots drive drunk all the time. This isn't a new thing to do. Sorry, Im just "getting real already."

pommom38
1496
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pommom38 10/01/09 - 03:52 pm
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0
Ty for getting real, but my

Ty for getting real, but my point still remains the same. I have a 14 year old. He has been brought up to be respectful, get good grades, and behave. Does that mean he won't all of a sudden do bad? no.. Does it mean I am going to stay up and guard his room to make sure he's in there at night? Heck no. I didn't say anything about him being out at whatever time, I made comment to all these blaming the parents as usual.

waugusta92
0
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waugusta92 10/01/09 - 04:23 pm
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justus makes provoking

justus makes provoking comments on every article and ya'll love to argue right along with him because it allows you to act distracted and not discuss the issue at hand. ive seen stiffer sentencing for non-violent crimes.

mable8
2
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mable8 10/02/09 - 04:21 pm
0
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What does it matter if the

What does it matter if the individuals involved were purple, hot pink, or cranberry red--the point is: the driver was legally drunk; he struck and killed another human being; he left the scene of an "accident;" he was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to a total 20 years, which 8 must be served in prison and 12 on probation with plenty of restrictions to curb his use of alcohol. Although he may parole out, he will still have to serve the 12 years probation once the initial sentence is completed. Anyone who brings the charge of racism into this has a mind of gnat!

0697
1
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0697 10/05/09 - 03:14 pm
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where is the mugshot? it's

where is the mugshot? it's not even in the athens banner herald...just a thought

0697
1
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0697 10/05/09 - 03:14 pm
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you think it has anything to

you think it has anything to do with family connections????

corgimom
36801
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corgimom 11/11/09 - 06:40 pm
0
0
Run somebody down while

Run somebody down while you're drunk and you only get 8 years. It doesn't matter who you are or what color you are, that's dreadfully wrong.

gfwvaldostaga.
0
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gfwvaldostaga. 11/11/09 - 07:11 pm
0
0
The kid should not have been

The kid should not have been out on his bike at that time of night and the driver was I repeat old enough to know better than to drink and drive two wrongs don't make a right and now two families are going to have to suffer! hope people can wake up and learn a lesson from this tragedy! I taught both of my kids right from wrong at an early age and trusted them to choose the right path to take and thanks to God they did!

sgachief
0
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sgachief 11/12/09 - 07:13 am
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judges and prosecutors are

judges and prosecutors are worthless.

grinder48
2039
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grinder48 11/12/09 - 09:51 am
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This entire situation is
Unpublished

This entire situation is tragic and this is not intended in the least to lighten the load on Mr. Armstrong but there's no doubt whatsoever that the parents of the dead child share some degree of responsibility as well.

stillamazed
1488
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stillamazed 11/12/09 - 02:58 pm
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I don't know what the arguing

I don't know what the arguing is about, it said that the 12 year old and his 17 year old brother slipped out of the house, What young person doesn't slip out at some point in their life, I know we used to sneak out and sit out in the yard whispering to friends and thinking we had gotten away with something, our parents were not to blame, we were for being sneaky to start with but that is youth for you. I blame the drunk driver plain and simple, there is no excuse to get behind the wheel of a car intoxicated on anything. Call a cab or call a friend or walk, we all have choices.

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