At Khiry Johnson's Friday sentencing for causing a drunken-driving fatality, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Michael McAlexander called Johnson “something of an enigma.”
Overcoming a difficult childhood, Johnson had three years of college under his belt and was making $55,000 a year as a car mechanic when he plowed into a Chevy Cobalt on South Clinton Street on Sept. 21, 2019.
The victim, Michael Dewitt Stevenson, 44, was thrown from his car and died at a hospital.
“So, who is this guy and what does that say to get so drunk and blow through an intersection on Clinton Street?” McAlexander asked. “He doesn't fit the standard profile of people coming through here.”
Johnson, 31, had a record that includes several misdemeanors for marijuana possession and a felony for carrying a handgun without a license.
Superior Court Judge Fran Gull sentenced him Friday to the maximum 12 years for a Level 4 felony with four years suspended.
Johnson, who has four children and pleaded guilty to the charges in March, will spend eight years in the Indiana prison system.
He was charged in March 2020 with causing death when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, driving with a suspended license and reckless homicide, all felony charges. The last two charges Gull dismissed.
The fatal 2019 accident occurred at 3:15 a.m. as Johnson drove his 2014 Kia Sorrento south on South Clinton. He ran a red light at East Wallace Street, colliding with Stevenson's 2008 gray Cobalt going west on East Wallace, according to probable cause affidavit. Johnson's blood alcohol level tested at 0.19%, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08%. McAlexander also said a video of the crash existed.
Representing Johnson, attorney Marcia Linsky said when Johnson was growing up he was often left in charge of his younger siblings while his mother was out drinking.
“He's been through a lot,” Linsky said. “He's had a substance abuse problem for a while and hasn't addressed that.”
Linsky asked for a three-year sentence with the balance suspended.
“It would allow him to come back and show he's changed,” she said.
Since 2019, he has been clean because “he doesn't want to make mistakes that end up ending a life,” Linsky said. “He says he needs treatment and counseling.”
Johnson faced Stevenson's family and apologized, but at times, he could barely find the words. The family, who didn't want to speak, cried along with him.
Johnson's foster mother, retired police Officer Diane Rogers, attended the sentencing where no harsh words were spoken.
After the sentencing, Rogers said she met Johnson when he was 7. Johnson called her when he was 15 and said he was ready to change his life. She protected him during the eight-year stretch when he used to call her regularly before she became his foster mother at 15, she said.
“The way he spoke; ... that's the little boy I fell in love with and he's still that person,” Rogers said.