Teen sentenced in deadly Alabama crash, details remain sealed

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Rod and Paula Bramblett (Image: auburntigers.com)

AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – The Auburn teen charged in the deadly crash that killed Rod and Paula Bramblett has been sentenced. However, 18-year-old Johnston Taylor’s exact punishment is not being disclosed at this time because Taylor is under a Youthful Offender status.

The YO status in the case prevented News 3 or any other media from being inside the courtroom during the plea and sentencing. News 3 waited outside in The Lee County Justice parking lot and saw Taylor did not walk out with his legal team after his plea hearing on Wednesday, April 28, in front of Judge P.B. McLauchlin.

After Wednesday’s sentencing, Tommy Spina, the Birmingham defense attorney representing Taylor, told News 3 he could not comment specifically on details of the sentencing due to the YO status.

“The sentence was fair and balanced in light of all facts and circumstances,” said Spina.

Johnston was 16-years-old when he crashed into Rod and Paula Bramblett on March 25, 2019, along Shug Jordan Parkway, killing the Voice of the Auburn Tigers and his wife. The ALEA crash report indicates the teen was traveling 91 miles per hour at the time of the crash, and a blood sample taken from the Taylor at the hospital indicated “recent” use of marijuana.

Taylor

The teen’s defense attorneys applied for Youthful Offender status in the case. In the order granting YO, Judge McLaughlin wrote, “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. None of this justifies what happened; however, it does lend itself to treatment as a Youthful Offender. THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Application to be treated as a Youthful Offender is hereby GRANTED.”

A Youthful Offender status is considered a legal win for a defense team as it reduces possible punishment and seals further public inspection of the case record. If the judge does hand down a sentence, prison time is capped at three years, and probation is capped at three years. Because the person is not considered a convict, they can own a firearm, vote, hold public office, and they do not have to disclose information related to the crime on a job application.

The Lee County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on Wednesday’s sentencing or the case, citing the YO status of Johnston Taylor. The District Attorney’s Office had argued against YO and wanted to try Johnston as an adult in the deaths of Rod and Paula Bramblett.

Judge McLauchlin was appointed to the case when several Lee County Judges rescued themselves.

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