Friday, March 26, 2004
Motorist from deadly road rage case gets 6 months
By JOHN MUNFORD
A road rage incident that escalated out of control last May led to the death of a young Fayetteville woman. Monday, on the day Kera Koon would have turned 22, the Sharpsburg man who parried with her on the road moments before the deadly crash pled guilty in court to one of the five charges against him. Paul Samuel Gardner Jr., 32, pled guilty to leaving the scene of an auto accident that resulted in a death. The four other charges filed against Gardner two felony counts of vehicular homicide and one count each of reckless conduct and speeding were dropped in a deal that was approved by Koons family, prosecutors said. Prosecutors faced a significant hurdle in prosecuting the case because Koon tested positive for having marijuana in her system at the time of the crash. She also had a .08 percent blood alcohol concentration, according to lab results, which would have been admissable at the trial. Gardner was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Christopher Edwards to six months in a detention center, which is a jail facility operated by the state probation system. Unlike a regular prison sentence, Gardner will have to serve the full six months at the detention center because the facility is not under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board. Edwards also sentenced Gardner to five years probation, the first of which will be on intensive probation, which will include a curfew, random drug testing and community service requirements. Gardner also is required to participate in a drug and alcohol evaluation and counseling program. Edwards initially rejected attempts for the plea to be entered under the first offender act, which means the plea is wiped from Gardners record if he successfully serves his sentence. But after the family told the court they wanted the matter disposed of without a trial, Edwards accepted the plea. In previous court hearings, witnesses testified that Gardner pulled his truck in front of Koons vehicle and tapped on his brakes several times, causing her to panic and run off the road in the fatal crash. A passenger in Koons car survived the accident. The two vehicles never made contact, however, and Gardner originally went back to Coweta County without reporting the crash before turning himself in to deputies. A sheriffs detective previously testified that Gardner told him he didnt stop because he was scared of what might happen to him. Witnesses previously testified that Gardner became upset with Koon moments before when she allegedly cut off his truck while changing lanes. Gardners attorney, Ricky Morris Jr., said his client was pleased with the end result because there was little doubt the state would be able to prove he left the scene of the accident.