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Mothers of teens killed in crash oppose lower bond for driver

JONESBORO — The mother of one of three teenagers killed in an August crash grew emotional in court Tuesday morning as she faced the driver in person for the first time and asked for closure.

Defendant Priscilla Dianne Johnson, 49, has been held in the Clayton County jail since her Aug. 25 arrest, unable to post $450,000 bond. Judge Albert Collier ruled the bond is reasonable and declined to lower it.

Clayton County police said Johnson plowed into three teens as they walked along Ga. 138 near I-675 in Stockbridge. Octavius Sorrells and Timothy Aaron, both 17, and Antonious Bishop, 16, were on the shoulder of the state route near the interstate’s overpass when they were struck.

Bishop’s mother, Lakesha Green, took the stand in Clayton Superior Court to oppose a bond reduction. Under direct examination by Assistant District Attorney Luana Nolen, Green confronted Johnson.

“I have forgiven you,” said Green, growing emotional. “I pray for you every day. I didn’t get a chance to hold my baby or say good-bye to him. I don’t condemn you at all. But it would mean a lot for you as a mother, I need you to say what it is so we can move on from this. It affects us every day.”

Johnson also teared up and mumbled something in response to Green but said nothing else. She did not take the stand.

Green said Bishop was her middle child and that all three friends were close to each other.

“He was a junior in high school, living the life of a teenager,” she said. “He loved skateboarding and going to church. He was a people person. He never met a stranger.”

Sorrells’ mother, Nicole Green, also spoke against lowering Johnson’s bond. She said her youngest son’s death has traumatized her.

“He’d just gotten accepted into the military academy and was going to join the Air Force,” she said. “I can’t talk to my son except in spirit. I have photographs of him, I can visit the cemetery, smell his clothes, but he’s gone.”

Johnson’s attorney, Larry Melnick, painted his client as a caring and compassionate caregiver who’d suffered from blackouts but didn’t know why.

“Two weeks before this accident, she was put on anti-anxiety drugs,” he said. “She was taking meds. She took a look at her behavior, saw a problem, addressed the problem and was taking meds for the problem.”

Barbara Peterson of Correct Health, health services provider for the jail, testified that Johnson is under medication but still experiencing blackouts.

“There is no documentation that the meds have resolved the symptomology,” she said.

Melnick asked Nicole Green if she could agree to Johnson’s release knowing that the crash was not a malicious act but one stemming from a possible medical condition.

“No,” she said. “From her negligence just that day, how do we know she won’t take the opportunity again to get behind the wheel of a car and cause heartache for another family? I don’t feel she needs to be out, period.”

Nolen concurred during her closing statement.

“The state’s position is the current bond is reasonable,” she said. “"She continued to have an ongoing condition, continued to have ongoing episodes of blacking out up to six months before this and continued to drive.”

Nolen also noted that Johnson was driving without a license or insurance at the time of the crash.

“Ms. Johnson was a ticking time bomb and never should have been on the road that day,” she said. “She shouldn’t have been driving at all. These three young men should still be here with us.”