Crime

Man named ‘teacher of year’ after arrest in Columbus DUI crash. A girl lost her foot.

Woman tells her story of DUI arrest to prevent others from drinking and driving

Rochelle Fischer is shares her story about the night she got busted for a DUI in Bellingham, Washington, hoping others will learn from her mistake.
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Rochelle Fischer is shares her story about the night she got busted for a DUI in Bellingham, Washington, hoping others will learn from her mistake.

High school teacher Jonathan Dimitres Carr drank a whole bottle of rum before his Dodge Ram pickup crashed into a yard on Columbus’ Englewood Drive, maiming a 14-year-old girl and ramming her house.

He got out of his truck and said, “I am f—ked up,” before witnesses attacked and beat him. “I deserved it, though,” he later said of the assault.

Carr had a blood-alcohol content level of .19. The legal limit in Georgia is .08.

The teen was hit as she talked on her cell phone and was thrown into a metal barbecue grill. Her body was so entangled, rescuers had to extricate her. After multiple surgeries, her right leg was amputated below the knee.

The crash occurred about 11:30 p.m. July 17, 2015. A female friend who had followed Carr because she knew he was too drunk to drive told police his truck that was headed west on Childress Street never slowed at an Englewood Drive stop sign.

Initially charged with multiple offenses, Carr faced up to 15 years in prison Wednesday when he pleaded guilty to serious injury by vehicle while driving drunk. But Superior Court Judge Ben Land had to weigh the circumstances carefully when sentencing the 27-year-old. The girl and her family didn’t want Carr to ruin his career by having to serve years behind bars.

A Columbus native, Carr was 24 in 2015 and teaching at Augusta’s Josey High School. After the crash, he was transferred to a teaching position at a Richmond County alternative school for students with academic or behavior issues.

His colleagues there voted him “Teacher of the Year” for 2018-2019.

Broken dreams

What he did jeopardized his career, but did not end it. It ended the young woman’s dreams of what her life could have been.

“Because of your careless behavior, I have to walk around for the rest of my life … an amputee,” the high school senior wrote in a letter a victim’s advocate read to the court. “You took my basketball career from me, and for that I haven’t come to forgive you…. I could be playing AAU basketball, but instead I’m attending amputee camps.”

AAU stands for Amateur Athletic Union, a league of basketball clubs that play each other and often draw star athletes.

Carr also was an athlete: After graduating from Columbus’ Shaw High School in 2009, he played offensive lineman for Morehouse College, graduating there in 2013. He said he still coaches at Josey High School in Augusta.

His 18-year-old victim now uses a prosthetic. “You deserve some sort of punishment, but I don’t want you to rot in prison,” she wrote in her letter. “My grandmother always said, ‘He that gives mercy, God shows mercy.’”

Her grandmother spoke on behalf of the family, telling Land: “I’ve talked to Mr. Carr, and I feel like he’s remorseful.”

Carr apologized, saying he “acted out of fear and weakness” when he drank a 750-milliliter bottle of rum to deal with his personal issues. “I was fearful for my career,” he said, adding he’d also lost close relatives and had become depressed. “That caused me to pick up a bottle and drink it.”

The penalty

Assistant District Attorney Veronica Hansis recommended Land sentence Carr to 15 years with five to serve in prison and the rest on probation.

“The defendant will move on, but she (victim) can’t move on,” Hansis said.

Defense attorney William Kendrick asked Land to give Carr probation so Carr wouldn’t lose his job while in prison, though a felony conviction still could risk his teaching certificate.

Carr said he had no other criminal record besides a speeding ticket. He pledged to contribute to the teen’s future medical needs.

Land was torn, saying Carr deserved punishment, but the woman’s family didn’t want his life wrecked. He asked the victim what she wanted. She said Carr should serve some time in confinement, after all she had endured.

The judge took about 30 minutes to ponder the options before sentencing Carr to serve 180 days in a detention center and 15 years on probation. He fined Carr $5,000, ordered him to pay restitution and perform 300 hours of community service.

That community service must include speaking at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving event, and talking to high school students about the dangers of DUI, and the risks of making mistakes that can destroy your life or someone else’s, Land said.

Carr also is to undergo a substance-abuse and a mental-health evaluation, the judge said.

“This is an impossible case for anyone to come up with a perfect solution to,” he said. “I think the price has to be fair and appropriate to all sides.”

The victim’s grandmother afterward said the family accepted Land’s decision: “We’re good with it.”

The Richmond County School District did not immediately respond to Ledger-Enquirer requests for comment.

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