North shore family gets some justice in DWI case

North shore family gets some justice in DWI case

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Members of a north shore family say they get at least partial justice in a drunken driving case that sent them to the hospital.

The wreck happened nearly three years ago. On Tuesday, Dara Johnson and her daughter, Sadie, left the St. Tammany courthouse with a measure of vindication.

"We have finally seen justice," she said.

In 2012, Dr. Lawrence Getz slammed into the Johnson family's SUV on the Causeway. The family still feels the pain.

"We still have orthopedic and brain injuries that we're dealing with as a family," said Dara.

After the accident, an ambulance took Getz to a New Orleans hospital, where a blood test found him with .21 blood alcohol level - three times the legal limit. But somehow, that test never made it on Getz's record, and unbeknownst to the victims, Getz was allowed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges: careless operation and driving with an expired license He paid a a fine of just over $400.

"It's just blessed he didn't kill the Johnson family, they are only injured. We all know it could have been much worse," said Valerie Cox with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

The Johnsons alleged a conflict of interest between the St Tammany D.A.'s office, their attorney and the Causeway Commission, who all had ties to the law firm of McCrainie Sistrunk. They asked for and got then-D.A. Walter Reed to recuse himself from the case, since he was "of counsel" to that firm. They also fired their attorney. And after they raised the issue with the Causeway Commission, the commission fired the firm, but claimed it had nothing to do with the Johnson case.

"There is a problem in Louisiana with DWIs," said Cox.

With MADD's help and at the Johnson's urging, the case was brought before a St. Tammany grand jury that indicted Getz on three counts of first-degree negligent injury on April 25 of last year. Getz pleaded guilty and on Tuesday Judge Reggie Badeaux sentenced him to five years of home incarceration, telling the family, "the wheels of justice grind slowly, but grind fine."

"After 35 months, I'm thankful this day has finally come," said Johnson.

Getz must pay $6,000 in fines, use an interlock device, and donate $10,000 to MADD.

"If all judges would hand down sentences and make offenders accountable, we would have less drinking and driving in Louisiana," Cox said.

Getz will also have to perform 240 hours of community service as the family continues its recovery.

"Hopefully my family can rebuild as a family and put some faith back in the justice system," Johnson said.

The Johnson family's former lawfirm and the attorney for Getz have declined comment on this case.

Getz will be allowed to serve his sentence at his home in North Carolina.

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