Man Who Struck and Killed a DOT Worker While Drunk Sentenced to 17 Years in Prison for Felony DUI
A man who hit and killed a DOT worker while committing his third DUI in December has been sentenced to 17 years in prison.
On December 4th, 39-year-old Thomas Stafford from West Columbia was driving down I-20 when he suddenly swerved into 21-year-old Nicholas Johnson of Columbia, a DOT worker. He then pulled over a short distance later on the interstate when his friends indicated he should pull over. They explained what happened to him.
During the sentence hearing, Judge Robert Hood said he weighed the obvious good in the painting contractor’s life with his history of repeat DUI, and the fatal turn his third DUI took.
“This is one of the more emotional cases I’ve had to handle,” Hood told a small but crowded courtroom. Hood noted that, while Johnson had been just shy of his 22nd birthday and was “trying to make our highways and our roads safer,” Stafford also was a hard worker, a loving father to two daughters who needed his care, and had been willing to accept responsibility for his crime.
However, Stafford had a tumultuous history with non-alcohol related DUI charges. According to reports, he was high on Xanax and methadone while he was driving to a job site to work, the day he killed Johnson. He had previously been convicted of a DUI in 2010, and then another DUI just two weeks before the fatal crash.
Stafford’s lawyer told the court that the defendant had been prescribed methadone-based drugs to treat pain from a back injury in 2011, and had become addicted to them. He sought help in a methadone recovery group, and had been prescribed Xanax to help with depression and mood swings associated with getting clean. However, Stafford was overmedicating himself – he was not trying to flee the scene when he drove away from the accident, but he clearly was under the influence when he ignored the brightly-colored and obvious safety barriers DOT workers put up.
Rene Johnson, the victm’s mother, was allowed to speak to the court immediately after the judge sentenced Stafford. “The choices you made has caused a lot of pain and suffering for both families…I hope that you, today, too, start a journey – one that will help you become clean and sober so you will be able to make better choices for you, your family, and the citizens of South Carolina.”
According to South Carolina state law, Stafford will be required to serve 85% of his sentence.
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Felony DUI Charges in South Carolina
Based in Columbia, SC, the attorneys at the Strom Law Firm collectively have over 30 years of experience with South Carolina law. The firm was founded in 1996 by former US Attorney and Assistant Solicitor Pete Strom. If you face felony DUI charges in South Carolina, we can help. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case. Do not let DUI or felony DUI charges prevent you from pursuing opportunities. Contact us today. 803.252.4800.