A 65-year-old man with a history of drunken driving was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for slamming into a business on the northwest edge of the Twin Cities, killing one person and injuring several others inside.
Robert A. Johnson was given a term of 6 ¾ years Wednesday in Sherburne County District Court in connection with driving his pickup through a wall of Reliant Systems Inc., in the 12600 block of Fremont Avenue in Zimmerman, on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2017.
Johnson, convicted in late June of criminal vehicular homicide and 13 other related counts, will serve roughly four years in prison and the balance on supervised release. Restitution of nearly $190,000 on behalf of the victims or survivors was also ordered.
Daniel Elliott, 51, of Hamburg, was killed. Elliott was making a delivery at the time.
Johnson, who has two previous drunken driving convictions, had a blood alcohol content at the scene of .103 percent, above the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.
He told a sheriff's deputy he had at least two mixed drinks before leaving the American Legion hall. Law enforcement officers found a near-empty bottle of whiskey in the pickup's center console, the charges said.
Johnson also said the accelerator stuck before the crash, but a witness said that Johnson's foot had the gas pedal pushed to the floor, according to the criminal complaint. The pickup landed 30 to 40 feet inside the building, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Other injured employees inside the building were Kim Ann Mills of Anoka; Heidi Jo Olerich of Zimmerman, and Michael Wayne Milano of Zimmerman. An unidentified fifth victim was treated and released.
At sentencing, Johnson argued for probation, which would have been less than what state sentencing guidelines call for. Judge Mary Yunker imposed the maximum term allowed.
"A great loss was suffered by the families and the community due to the actions of one person," Sherburne County Attorney Kathleen Heaney said in a statement Thursday. "We only hope that the decision will allow the families some small solace."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482