Nancy Peterson stood face-to-face Monday with the hit-and-run driver whom she blames for turning her son into a “monster.”
Through sobs and surrounded by court officials, she described to Joshua Johnson the extent of her son’s injuries — a broken back and ribs, and two broken legs; his left leg so badly injured it had to be amputated — and the impact they’ve had on his life. She said her son, Paul Adams, may still lose his right leg.
Adams, who now gets around with the assistance of a wheelchair, was not present during Johnson’s sentencing and has said he holds no ill feelings toward Johnson.
However, Peterson painted a much different picture of her son.
“He’s a mean person now. He’s a monster,” she said. “He doesn’t want to live.
“He’s started using meth(amphetamine) and that’s making him meaner,” she added.
Peterson quaked with anger as she addressed Johnson. Her 11-year-old grandson, Vincent — Adams’ son — stood by her side.
“I do not understand how you can hit a man and then drive away. … And you left him there to bleed out, to die,” she said.
After she spoke, Johnson, 31, was sentenced to five years in prison. He pleaded guilty last month to hit-and-run resulting in injury and possession of methamphetamine.
The hit-and-run occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 20. Adams, then 34, was walking along the shoulder in the 4100 block of Northeast 54th Avenue in Minnehaha. A passer-by found him lying next to the road.
The circumstances of the crash and resulting injuries are strikingly similar to a 2013 case involving Joshua Johnson’s mother. Shaun Johnson was convicted twice of striking Justin Carey, a Battle Ground teenager who was waiting for a school bus.
Joshua Johnson’s attorney, Michael Green, said that his client started using methamphetamine when he was 15 years old and has likely suffered permanent brain impairment from the drugs — which contributed to his poor decision-making.
Green urged the judge to hand down an alternative sentence for drug offenders so that Johnson can receive the treatment he needs and be less of a danger to the community upon his release.
“This has been an awful set of circumstances. It’s unforgiveable,” Green added.
However, in a written statement filed with the court, Johnson said he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, contrary to what a witness told police. The witness, a passenger in Johnson’s car, told detectives that before the crash they had gone to a warehouse off state Highway 14 to buy methamphetamine, court records state.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu argued that Johnson should not qualify for the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative program based on his own admission.
An emotional Johnson told the judge that “this time is different.”
“Somebody got hurt beyond any lengths I thought I could hurt anybody,” he said.
But in spite of Johnson’s tearful apology, Judge Daniel Stahnke told Johnson that he can’t ignore his own words.
“You knew what you were doing,” Stahnke said. “You left somebody in the street to die.”
“You have a compliance problem with the law,” Stahnke continued. “You can shake your head all you want.”
Stahnke said he’s not convinced Johnson would comply with the alternative sentencing program and instead handed down the five-year prison sentence.
Peterson whispered from the courtroom gallery, “Thank you, your honor.”
After the hearing, Peterson said she doesn’t think she’ll ever find closure, “not when I have to look at what my son is.”
Even though Adams is alive, Peterson said she feels like she’s lost him.
“I’m afraid I’m just going to find him dead,” she said. “He’s given up. He doesn’t care.”
Peterson told The Columbian that her son struggled with meth use in the past but had been clean for nine years.
She’s hopeful that one day her son will seek treatment and come home to his family.
“All is not lost,” Vincent added.