A young man who raced another driver along state Route 52, leading to a rollover crash that killed two East County teens, was placed on probation Wednesday for three years and ordered to serve 180 days in jail.
Michael Sebastian Johnson, 19, appeared at his sentencing hearing dressed in beige jail clothing. He was booked into the downtown jail Sept. 21, a little more than a week after he pleaded guilty to one felony count of engaging in a speed contest.
Johnson and another teen were charged in connection with the April crash that killed Anthony Foreman, 18, a graduate of El Capitan High School in Lakeside, and Jayli Campbell, 16, a student at Santana High School in Santee. Two other young passengers suffered serious injuries.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Eugenia Eyherabide said Wednesday that the defendant will not be allowed early release from jail. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Johnson is also required to complete 30 days of volunteer work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving or a similar organization.
The parents of each of the deceased victims attended the sentencing hearing and spoke about the devastation each family has endured. They encouraged Johnson to learn from what he had done and lead a more productive life.
“You witnessed intense carnage that you had a role in creating,” said Mark Foreman, Anthony’s father. “What you do about it is up to you.”
Foreman, a retired police officer now pursuing a degree in psychology, advised Johnson to practice self-control and taking responsibility. He said pleading guilty was a step in the right direction.
Theresa Campbell, Jayli’s mother, choked back tears as she spoke of her son.
“Jayli had so much ambition in him,” she said. He would have been a high school senior this year. “He always tried to improve himself, always tried to excel.”
She said Johnson’s decision to race another driver cost her son his life. Although Jayli won’t get a second chance to grow up and grow old, she urged Johnson to experience “all the joys in life that my son was robbed of.”
When she finished speaking, a video was shown featuring photos and videos of Jayli as a round-cheeked baby, an energetic toddler and a gregarious teen.
Johnson watched the video and then turned to face the families.
“I’m so sorry for your irreplaceable losses,” he said, adding that it was his choice to take responsibility for his actions and forgo a trial. “I know I will never be the same after this. I hope all of us can begin to heal but never forget.”
The judge commended the families for expressing hope for Johnson’s future.
“This court doesn’t see that very often,” Eyherabide said.
The crash occurred as the group of teens was returning home from a bonfire party at La Jolla Shores the night of April 4. Prosecutors said Johnson, who was driving a Volvo S40, and the 16-year-old driver of a Volkswagen Passat were racing at speeds exceeding 100 mph, when the younger driver lost control.
The 16-year-old pleaded guilty in Juvenile Court to gross vehicular manslaughter. He was placed on probation and ordered to serve up to a year at a youth camp.