In a tear-filled, standing-room only courtroom, a former FBI agent convicted of killing a Brandywine teen in a drunk driving collision was sentenced to 18-months in prison.
Adrian Johnson, 37, was charged with vehicular manslaughter and related charges after striking a vehicle driven by Lawrence Garner Jr., 18, as he was leaving a Brandywine community park on North Keys Road in February 2011.
Johnson of Brandywine was found to have been driving 18 miles over the 40 miles per hour speed limit while off-duty and produced a .25 blood alcohol level during a breathalyzer test — more than three times the .08 legal limit.
Garner was pronounced dead at the scene while his passenger and friend, Robert Mitchell, 19, sustained life-threatening injuries and has since recovered.
During Friday’s sentencing in Upper Marlboro with Prince George’s Circuit Court judge Michael Pearson, state prosecutor Sam Danai noted a 2006 alcohol-related traffic offense where Johnson was charged, but the case was dismissed. He said if Johnson had not been drinking or speeding, the collision could have never occurred and Garner could be alive today.
“In this instance, Mr. Johnson chose to not do what he knew what was right,” Danai said. “The vehicle was a weapon, just as much as a knife, just as much as a gun.”
Johnson’s defense attorney Robert Bonsib said his client is a “good man who made a terrible mistake.”
“One matter of a few seconds has changes a lot of lives in this case,” Bonsib said. “Spending 10 years in jail is not going to bring anybody back.”
Some of Garner’s family members and friends spoke before the sentencing was announced.
“The impact of losing my son, JR, my namesake, my best friend, my everything, is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life,” said Garner’s father, Lawrence Garner Sr. “He was a very humble, sweet, caring, strong young man who made me very proud to say that he was my son.”
Lawrence Garner Jr. was a 2010 graduate of Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine. Family members said he was planning on becoming a Maryland State Trooper and wanted to “protect the community.”
“JR was a loving, caring guy. He was my right hand man,” Mitchell said. “Waking up from the hospital, I can’t begin to explain what I was going through. I wouldn’t wish this pain on anybody.”
Johnson, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, spoke prior to being sentenced and offered his condolences to the Garner family and said he’s felt remorse for the incident and would accept any sentence with maturity.
“My prayers have gone out to the family since the very beginning of when the accident occurred and will continue to for the remainder of my life,” he said, addressing Garner’s family, many of whom were crying.
In addition to his prison sentence, Johnson was ordered to pay $1,050 in fines for reckless driving, speeding and failure to drive to the right of center charges.
Johnson is no longer with the FBI and Bonsib said he has gone into real estate as a new career.
He had already served 71 days in jail after his bond was revoked following his conviction in October, Pearson said.
“I don’t think you are a threat to society necessarily, but the fact is you took a life and you almost took a second life,” said Pearson before giving the sentence.
Johnson’s wife and parents, who attended the hearing, declined to comment outside the courtroom.
Garner’s grandmother, Betty Garner, said she feels the sentence should have been longer.
“He’s taken a life. Even if he had been given 10 years, he can get out and go back to his family while we go to a grave,” said the 64-year-old of Forestville. “With there being so many drunk drivers out there, these sentences are not really deterrents. You don’t really get punished for killing somebody.”
Johnson will have 30 days to file for an appeal or review of the sentence and 90 days to file a request for the judge to reconsider his sentence.
Bonsib said members of the family are contemplating whether or not to ask the judge to reconsider the sentence but said that decision has not yet been made.
“I think the judge gave a very fair sentence,” Bonsib said. “Mr. Johnson continues to maintain that this was an unavoidable accident.”