Johnson pleads guilty to charges from Holiday crash

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Dawaun Johnson, seen with his attorney Keith DeForge, pleaded guilty to operating under the influence - causing death during a plea hearing in Baraga County Circuit Court Tuesday.

L’ANSE — An Illinois man pleaded guilty Tuesday to operating under the influence during a October 2022 semi-truck crash at the Holiday station in L’Anse that killed one person.

Dawaun Johnson, 24, of University Park, Illinois, appeared in Baraga County Circuit Court for his plea hearing. He could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

“I was driving, I dozed off, crashed into a gas station and killed a man,” he said, when asked to provide a factual basis for the plea.

Johnson was driving for the trucking company CR England when his semi-truck veered off the road and toward the Holiday station. Al Dantes, who was fueling his vehicle, was killed in the crash. The car then crashed into the Holiday store, injuring an employee.

Johnson estimated he drank half of a fifth of brandy before getting behind the wheel. He had taken over about a half-hour before the crash because a trainee who had been driving was nearing his hours cap, according to police reports.

Blood-alcohol tests from two hours after the event put his blood-alcohol level at .156.

Two other charges — operating while intoxicated – causing serious injury and having an open alcohol container in a vehicle — were dismissed in the plea agreement. There is no sentence agreement in the case.

The plea agreement was reached after the deadline. Judge Brittany Bulleit granted a waiver due to the amount of time the case spent in the state Court of Appeals. Earlier this month, the court ruled against the defense, which had argued there had not been enough probable cause for police to request a field sobriety test, and sought to have results excluded from evidence.

Johnson’s bond was revoked and he was remanded to the custody of the Baraga County Sheriff’s Office.

His sentencing will take place in 45 to 60 days.


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