Johnny Otis Workman was sentenced Tuesday morning to 15 years, with the first 10 years served before being eligible for parole, following his guilty plea for vehicular homicide in the death of David J. Nunnelley in July 2009.
While the victim’s family cried, Newton County Assistant District Attorney Clint C. Malcolm once more went over the facts of the case, how the 31-year-old Workman was driving a vehicle with no insurance and with a suspended license, under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, fled from a trooper from the Georgia State Patrol and struck Nunnelley before wrecking his own vehicle.
Nunnelley, 45, was found lying in the roadway not far from the motorcycle he had been driving. An accident recreation by the GSP showed that Workman crossed the center line and struck Nunnelley, who was pronounced dead on the scene.
"I just want you to know what’s been taken from us," said Sandra Sharp, one of Nunnelley’s sister’s. "My brother didn’t have a choice that night. Mr. Workman had a choice… He’s got children; grandbabies he won’t see grow up… There’s been so much hurt and pain — he was snatched away in an instant. My brother was just going home…"
She asked the judge to "have mercy on our family" and to sentence Workman to the maximum. She then took a wallet-sized photo of Nunnelley and placed it on the podium; looking at Workman she said that she wanted him to have the picture so that everyday he could look at it.
"That’s all we have now," she said tearfully, "is pictures."
Nunnelley’s niece Linda McCall was the last from the family to address the court and she also spoke of choices, but her uncle’s inability to choose his fate and Workman’s choice to drink and drive that night.
"He chose to get in his vehicle and drive, and he took an innocent person’s life. We’ll never get that back," she said. "22 years…" she said, which is the maximum sentence that Workman could receive on the charges against him. "He won’t do all of that, will he? He’ll get out but we don’t have David… You can’t turn back time.
"Is he sorry?" she continued. "Does he have any remorse? We couldn’t even see my uncle because he was so messed up. He broke every bone in his body… I don’t agree with 22 years, and maybe it’s wrong that I want more, but please sentence him to the maximum," she pleaded with Superior Judge Eugene Benton.
The entire time that Nunnelley’s family spoke Workman stood silently with his hands clasped in front of him, his head lowered, staring at the ground. When asked if he had anything to say, he looked at the judge and spoke for the first time.
"I’m sorry," he said. "I did make the wrong choices that night. I’m sorry but I can’t take it back."
Both Malcolm and Workman’s public defender Jennifer Arndt had discussed a plea deal, and Arndt asked that the judge accept their recommendation.
On the charge of homicide by vehicle in the first degree Workman was sentenced to 15 years with the first 10 served in the penitentiary before being eligible for parole. For fleeing and attempting to elude, reckless driving, driving while license suspended, failure to maintain lane and operating a vehicle without insurance, Workman was sentenced to 12 months on each charge — all of which were misdemeanors.
Additionally, in a separate case against Workman where he was charged with two more misdemeanors, possession of marijuana less then an ounce and driving while license suspended, he received 12 months on each of those charges as well, giving him a total of 22 years with the first 10 served in confinement before being eligible for probation.
"You’re very selfish," said Benton, addressing Workman following his sentencing. "All you were concerned about was Johnny Otis Workman and you didn’t care about anything but your own selfish self... No amount of punishment can bring back David Nunnelley but it is this court’s intention that you spend every day [of the 10 years required before being eligible for parole] in the penitentiary."