Man given 8 years for DUI, hit-and-run

Johnathon Miller

A Grand Junction man, who had multiple drunken-driving offenses on his record and shouldn’t have been driving when he plowed into an 83-year-old man at Grand Junction Regional Airport and fled the scene in May, pleaded guilty and was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison.

Reading from a statement, Johnathon Jeffery Miller, 33, said he was “incredibly sorry” for the May 22 accident and realizes he nearly killed the victim, John Austin.

Miller pleaded guilty to felony vehicular assault in an agreement with prosecutors that called for him to receive four to eight years in prison.

Mesa County District Judge Thomas Deister chose the maximum sentence available, saying Miller has had multiple opportunities to address his alcohol addiction and has failed.

“You have to eliminate alcohol from your life,” Deister told Miller. “It’s the only way you’re going to be able to protect yourself and others.”

Miller was driving 40 mph through the passenger pick-up and drop-off area in front of the airport terminal when he struck Austin, who careened over the top of Miller’s car and suffered leg and elbow fractures and head injuries that he’s still recovering from, Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Chaffin said.

Miller broke through a lowered gate arm and left the airport. He was later found passed out behind the wheel at 25 and I roads. Chaffin said Miller’s blood-alcohol level was 0.32 — four times the legal limit for driving in Colorado.

Chaffin noted Miller was arrested in California for driving under the influence in 2008 and 2010 and was convicted in both cases. He then moved to Colorado and picked up his third DUI in Mesa County in January. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of driving while ability impaired and was sentenced to five days in the county jail and ordered to complete a substance abuse evaluation. His driver’s license was revoked for nine months.

Chaffin, though, said at the time he struck the deal with Miller, he missed the fact that Miller had been convicted of DUI twice before. He said he didn’t know what sort of deal he would have offered to Miller had he known about his history, but the minimum sentence for a third DUI in the state is 60 days in jail.

On Tuesday, Chaffin asked for the maximum sentence in the hit-and-run, claiming Miller “is a danger to everyone in this community.”

Public Defender Tracy Badger said Miller’s primary concern since the day she met him has been whether Austin is OK, and that he wants to get into treatment. She asked for a four-year sentence.

“This is a good man. It’s a battle with alcoholism,” she said.


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