The Auburn Police Department has arrested Johnston Edward Taylor, 19, on felony warrants charging him with six counts of possession of child pornography.
At the age of 16, Taylor was the driver in the Shug Jordan Parkway crash that killed Rod Bramblett, the lead broadcaster for Auburn University athletics, and his wife Paula on May 25, 2019.
He was arrested by police on Thursday. Police said the arrest stems from an investigation that began on June 7 and was initiated by the APD and members of the Alabama Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
During this investigation, police said Taylor was developed as a suspect. After a search warrant was conducted, police collected more evidence and arrested and charged Taylor.
Taylor was transported to the Lee County Jail and held on a $60,000 bond.
While Taylor received youthful offender status after being indicted by a grand jury on manslaughter charges after the Bramblett deaths, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said that now that Taylor is 19, it’s likely he will be charged as an adult.
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“I don’t know exactly how it will proceed at this point,” Jones told the Opelika-Auburn News on Friday. “However, Alabama law says once a person reaches the age of 18 they’re considered an adult in regard to criminal prosecution.”
If Taylor makes bond, Jones said, the next step would be a preliminary hearing, which the defendant has the choice to waive or not.
In a preliminary hearing, the state presents probable cause to a judge. If the judge believes probable cause does exist to support the arrest warrant, it would be sent to grand jury for consideration, Jones said.
Taylor’s case will be in the Lee County system and would go to the district court for a preliminary hearing. If Taylor waives the hearing, it would go straight to grand jury.
Following the Bramblett deaths in 2019, 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 court records.
The posted speed limit for the section of Shug Jordan Parkway where the crash occurred was 55 mph. 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, but Taylor was granted youthful offender status on April 13, 2021, at the age of 18, after applying for it in July of 2020.
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. He also waived his right to a jury trial for a trial by court, according to Alabama law.
The order granting Taylor youthful offender status was signed by Judge P.B. McLauchlin, a retired Dale County Judge appointed to Taylor’s case by the Alabama Supreme Court 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.” Youthful offender cases are sealed and the outcomes are not released to the public.Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said Friday that Taylor was released from custody in Lee County on Oct. 6, 2021, and was transported to Department of Corrections in Kilby, Ala.
He said that was the last contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office had with Taylor until this week.