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Woman found guilty in hit-and-run trial

By KTVA Alaska 4:48 PM March 11, 2014

Kayla Johnson was found guilty of a July 2013 hit-and-run

ANCHORAGE - Tuesday, a jury decided that Kayla Johnson would be held accountable for the 2013 drunken crash that left 18-year-old Tevin George in a coma for weeks.

Jurors saw evidence and heard witness testimony for days leading up to Tuesday morning’s closing arguments. Within a matter of hours the jury was able to decide how justice would be served.

Johnson, who was 20 years old at the time of the crash, had admitted to drinking the night she ran over Tevin George and left him on the street with serious head injuries.

“At that point, I was so drunk I didn’t even know what happened. I have no idea,” Johnson is heard saying in a recording of her initial statements played to the courtroom. “I had heard about the hit-and-run case the next day and I was questioning if that could’ve been my car.”

Yet Kayla Johnson’s attorney argued the July 20, 2013 accident was not her fault. Instead, George watched as attorney Thomas Wonnell redirected blame from Johnson to him, the victim.

“4 a.m. in the dark, in the pouring rain, with traffic, looking down at a phone. It’s not something an ordinary driver under these circumstances is going to be looking for. Why is he there?” Wonnell asked the jury.

The defense argued Johnson and George were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wonnell told jurors Johnson should be found innocent because low visibility made the accident inevitable.

The prosecution argued that the crash was a result of Johnson’s reckless action fueled by alcohol.

“All through this she’s admitting how drunk she is, ‘I was drunk. I was messed up,’” said prosecutor William Taylor while displaying damning text messages sent to and from Johnson’s phone after the hit-and-run.

The texts showed read in part, “Drunk driving…Never again…” and “My windshield looks like I hit somebody with my car” and “good thing you didn’t get caught.”

Taylor said Johnson’s admitted alcohol consumption technically made Johnson guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“If you find she drove while intoxicated, that is evidence of recklessness,” Taylor instructed the jury.

The case was submitted to the jury around noon. Around 2 p.m. the jury returned a verdict that left George’s family breathing a collective sigh of relief while Johnson succumbed to tears.

“We the jury find the defendant, Kayla Johnson, guilty …” said judge Matthew Warren, who was presiding over the case, as he read one guilty verdict after another. In all, Johnson was found guilty of DUI, tampering with evidence, failure to render aid, first-degree felony assault, minor operating a vehicle after consuming alcohol and driving with a suspended license.

“Kayla is guilty of everything that she has done to me and I am just happy,” George said.

George, who spent months relearning how to walk, says most of his physical wounds have healed, but says he’s still recovering from the damage the crash did to his brain.

Johnson’s sentencing is scheduled to take place in July.

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