The teen charged in the crash that killed beloved Auburn radio broadcaster Rod Bramblett and his wife, Paula, on May 25, 2019, has been granted youthful offender status, a Lee County (Alabama) judge ruled Tuesday.
Johnston Edward Taylor, 18, was charged two counts of manslaughter in July 2019.
“At the time of the accident, the defendant was a 16-year-old teenager with no prior criminal history, who had smoked or used marijuana and had been diagnosed with marijuana use disorder,” the order signed by circuit judge P.B. McLauchlin reads. “None of this justifies what happened; however, it does lend itself to treatment as a Youthful Offender.”
Under Alabama's Youthful Offender law, the defendant is considered to be guilty of breaking the Youthful Offender Statute, not the original crime they were charged with. The maximum penalty is three years in prison and once the sentence is served the defendant's records is sealed from public view.
In the state of Alabama, a youthful offender is classified as a person under the age of 21. Being granted that status means Taylor can receive a reduction in penalties.
He is due to be arraigned April 28.
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An investigation concluded that Taylor's 2011 Jeep Cherokee was traveling between 89-91 mph — well over the posted speed limit of 55 — when it struck the Bramblett's 2017 Toyota Highlander and showed no indication of braking.
Taylor told officers he fell asleep behind the wheel as he was driving home from the lake and did not remember what happened, the police report said. A toxicological analysis report from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences confirmed the presence of marijuana in Taylor's system.
Taylor was initially released on $25,000 bond after the crash, but a judge later revoked his bail after prosecutors said Taylor got at least three tickets in November for speeding and reckless driving.
He spent 60-90 days in a residential rehab treatment center in Nashville, Tennessee, and has been confined to his home with an ankle monitor since last April. According to McLauchlin's ruling, Taylor has passed all drug screens except for one in March 2021, when he tested positive for alcohol. He alleged that "was due to him taking allergy medication which contained alcohol."
Rod Bramblett had been calling games for the Tigers since 1993. Paula Bramblett worked in the Auburn University IT department. They were were married for nearly 30 years before their deaths. They had two children, daughter Shelby and son Joshua.
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This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Teen charged in crash that killed Rod Bramblett granted youth status