A youthful offender arraignment and plea hearing was held in the Lee County Justice Center Wednesday in the case of Johnston Taylor, 18, who was granted youthful offender status April 13.
While details of the sentencing were not made clear to the media, Tommy Spina, one of Taylor’s defense attorneys, said his client received some form of sentencing Wednesday.
“The sentence imposed was somewhere between a slap on the wrist and exacting a pound of flesh,” Spina said. “It was between those two extremes.”
Spina said he had “many limitations” on his ability to comment on Taylor’s case due to his client’s status as a youthful offender.
Lee County District Attorney Pro Tem Jessica Ventiere declined to comment on the case.
A youthful offender in the state of Alabama is classified as a person under the age of 21. As a youthful offender, Taylor had his range of punishment reduced to a maximum sentence of three years. The applicant also waives his right to a jury trial for a trial by court, according to Alabama law.
Taylor filed the youthful offender status application in July 2020.
The Alabama Supreme Court appointed Judge P.B McLauchlin, a retired Dale County Judge, to preside as the circuit judge in Taylor’s case in November 2020 after numerous Lee County judges recused themselves from presiding over the case, documents show.
“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 granting Taylor youthful offender status signed by McLauchlin reads. “None of this justifies what happened; however, it does lend itself to treatment as a Youthful Offender.”
Authorities reported that reckless driving and speeding both contributed to the Bramblett crash, which happened on May 25, 2019.
Rod Bramblett — known as the Voice of the Auburn Tigers — was the lead broadcaster for Auburn University athletics for many years before his death in the crash. His wife, Paula Bramblett, also died as a result of the crash.
The report from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Traffic Homicide Unit indicated that Taylor’s vehicle was doing 89-91 mph and that he did not brake before the crash, according to the affidavit.
The posted speed limit for the section of Shug Jordan Parkway where the crash occurred is 55 mph.
A toxicology analysis report from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences indicated a blood sample from Taylor contained THC.
THC “is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana and is indicative of recent usage of marijuana at the time of the collision on May 25,” the affidavit reads.
Taylor told police that he fell asleep while driving and did not remember what happened, according to the traffic-crash report.
Taylor was indicted on two counts of manslaughter-reckless by a Lee County grand jury on Jan. 16, 2020. He was charged as an adult.
Taylor’s previous bond was revoked in December 2019 due to traffic citations for speeding and reckless driving he was issued in November 2019.
Although his bond was revoked, Taylor was transferred from the Lee County Detention Facility to a rehabilitation facility for treatment. Court records indicate that he was taken to the rehab facility before Christmas 2019. He was then released from the facility in 2020 and his bond was re-instated with multiple bond conditions.
The motion to revoke that bond came March 31, 2021, after he tested positive for alcohol consumption during three different drug screenings while on bond in March, court documents show.
Taylor tested positive for alcohol indicative of “previous heavy drinking 1-3 days before testing, or recent light drinking within the past 24 hours” on March 1, 8 and 20, the state’s motion to revoke Taylor’s bond states.
Taylor’s defense attorneys objected to the motion to revoke bond and said the positive results for alcohol were due to allergy medication the defendant had taken, including Nite Time, ZzzQuick and Allergy Relief, because of high pollen levels and an inability to sleep due to “the PTSD caused by the accident and his depression because of the effect he had had only [sic] the family of the deceased,” the objection read.
The objection said the state insisted on a surprise drug screening at Taylor’s youthful offender hearing that began March 30, and the results came back negative for both drugs and alcohol. The defense described the motion to revoke Taylor’s bond as a “last minute ‘hail Mary’ to try to put the defendant in jail and prejudice the court in its Y.O. ruling,” the objection read.