Former London man found guilty of vehicular assault

By Andrew Garrett -

A former London resident was found guilty of vehicular assault.

The case was deliberated Friday in the Madison County Court of Common Pleas.

The five women and seven men of the jury took over three hours to find 25-year-old Decario Johnson guilty of vehicular assault, recklessly causing serious injury to 64-year-old Richard Cotter of Choctaw Lake.

The felony vehicular assault charge stemmed from a car crash caused by Johnson some time after 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 16, 2017.

Johnson, who was operating under a suspended license at the time of the crash, was driving his girlfriend’s green Chevy Malibu northbound on State Route 38 to retrieve his young daughter when he attempted to pass a car that was “brake checking” him, according to his testimony.

The defendant maintained that when he first began to attempt the pass, it was lawful to do so, as the yellow line for his lane was broken.

Johnson was in the opposite lane running alongside the vehicle he wished to pass when he saw the red Ford Mustang driven by Cotter appear, he told the court. He was prevented from getting back into his own lane by the car he was passing and tried to maneuver his vehicle so as not to hit the oncoming Ford, but was unable to do so, he said.

The impact of the accident occurred within several yards of a curve and hillcrest in the road which prevented traffic in the southbound lane from being seen.

According to testimony given by Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Brad Long whom specializes in automobile accident reconstruction and analysis, the vehicle Johnson was driving struck Potter’s in an offset manner, left headlight to left headlight, causing each car to rotate with considerable force.

Cotter was entrapped in the wreckage of his car. It took nearly an hour for men under the direction of Chief Brian Bennington of Central Township Joint Fire District and EMTs from Madison Emergency Medical District to extricate Cotter from the wreckage. He was subsequently flown by Med-Flight to Grant Medical Center.

Cotter sustained serious and life threatening injuries including broken wrists and fractured vertebrae. He also had his right leg below the knee amputated, pancreas repaired, and his spleen removed. Speaking of his injuries and of the four major surgeries he has undergone, Cotter said, “I looked like an erector set.”

Even after being fitted with a prosthesis and going through rehab, many of the things he used to do such as mowing or playing golf are difficult at best. “I can’t walk anymore the distance I want,” he said.

The data downloaded from the airbag module in Johnson’s vehicle showed Johnson’s speed was clocked at as much as 74 mph just seconds prior to impact. It also showed that he was not wearing his seat belt, which contradicted the statement he gave to Trooper Dominique Walker while being treated at Madison Health Hospital.

Johnson ultimately admitted that he was going 74 mph and that he had not been wearing a seat belt while on the witness stand.

According to multiple witnesses’ testimony, Johnson had attempted to pass not just one vehicle in front of him, but several — including a box truck.

A witness also testified that when he checked on Johnson after the accident, Johnson claimed he had been in a hurry.

Defense counsel, Steven Fox, argued that the state’s burden of proving reckless culpability beyond a reasonable doubt could not be met in the case.

Assistant prosecutor Nick Adkins disagreed, stating that such a case is practically the definition of reckless.

“An accident is something where no one is at fault,” he told the court. “We know that injuries due to recklessness can be avoided. Decario Johnson is guilty of vehicular assault,” he told the jury in closing.

Johnson was remanded into custody and awaits sentencing on June 6.

By Andrew Garrett

Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.

Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.