Sentence of 5⅓ years for northern Minnesota man with 6 DWIs after crash kills lifelong friend
His most recent drunken-driving conviction came after the fatal crash, according to court records
November 13, 2023
A northern Minnesota man with a long history of drunken driving has received a prison sentence topping five years for being extremely intoxicated when he was speeding on a dark road before a crash that killed his lifelong friend sitting next to him.
Gerald Wayne Johnson, 27, of Red Lake was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the wreck on Nov. 6, 2021, that killed 33-year-old Regina M. Rushman of Ponemah.
While speeding at more than 90 miles per hour in a 20 mph zone, Johnson lost control on a patch of ice and crashed the car into a tree, according to court documents. Test results showed his blood alcohol content soon after the wreck was 0.224%, nearly three times the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.
According to the plea agreement, federal guidelines recommended a prison sentence ranging from 4¾ to nearly seven years. Ahead of sentencing, defense attorney Matthew Deates pushed in a court filing for "a large downward variance" from the guidelines and have his client receive five years' probation and an unspecified time on home detention.
Deates pointed to Johnson's "significant post-offense rehabilitation" that has him sober for the past 1½ years and his desire to work toward a high school equivalency degree.
Prosecutors countered in their own filing that 5⅓ years in prison would be more fitting. Among their points: Johnson was convicted of his sixth drunken-driving offense less than eight months after the crash that killed a friend he has known since childhood.
During a court hearing in November 2022, Johnson said he began drinking late the previous afternoon and continued throughout the night, the officer testified.
Rushman was preceded in death by an infant child, according to her obituary. Her survivors included four children and their father.