Plea bargain nets drunk driver 15 years in fatal 2009 crash
By Judith Pannebaker
Thirteen months after a vehicular crash that claimed the life of the wife of a Bandera County Sheriff’s Office deputy, justice has been meted out.
On Thursday, Oct. 21, former Pipe Creek resident David Fred Flentge pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter in the death of Errin Ragus Johnson and intoxication assault in the serious injury of Gerald “Jerry” Johnson.
After hearing the plea, 216th Judicial District Judge Keith Williams sentenced Flentge to 15 years for the second degree felony of intoxication manslaughter and 10 years for intoxication assault, a third degree felony.
In addition, Flentge was assessed a fine of $2,800 to Bandera County for his court appointed attorney, David Black, and $4,144 to the Office of the Attorney General for the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund.
According to court documents, the sentences will run concurrently in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Flentge’s jury trial was set to begin Tuesday, Oct. 26.
The plea bargain prohibits the defendant from appealing the sentence.
The fatal two-vehicle crash occurred on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009.
At 2 am, Johnson and his wife were traveling on a Kawasaki motorcycle south on Highway 16 to the couple’s home near Polly Peak.
According to reports, Johnson had slowed the bike to make a left turn into Polly Peak Drive off Highway 16 South when he was struck from behind by a 2001 Ford F-150 pickup truck driven by Flentge. Court records noted that Flentge had failed to apply his brakes, slamming into the back of the motorcycle with such force that the cycle was shoved through the intersection.
At that time, law enforcement officers noted that the impact had caused the bike and its passengers to travel approximately 200 yards along the roadway. “The (driver of the pickup) must have been traveling at least 70 miles per hour to create that kind of impact,” one speculated.
Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Eino Zapata pronounced Johnson’s wife dead at the scene. Johnson was transported to University Hospital in San Antonio with serious injuries and investigating officers arrested Flentge for intoxication manslaughter. His blood alcohol level was reportedly 0.19 - more than twice the legal limit.
Flentge posted bond on Oct. 6, 2009. After his indictment, he was re-arrested on Dec. 1, 2009 and had remained incarcerated in the Bandera County Jail under $200,000 bond until his plea bargain. Flentge was returned to the jail prior to being transferred to the state prison system.
In June 2008, he had been arrested and pleaded no contest to a first count of DWI in Bandera County. Flentge had successfully completed the terms of his probation just months before last year’s fatal accident.
Regarding the sentence, Assistant District Attorney Steve Wadsworth said that the maximum sentence would have been 20 years. “We consulted with Deputy Johnson before discussing the plea bargain with the defendant,” Wadsworth said in an interview on Monday, Oct. 25. “Having to testify at a trial is very emotional for the victims and their families. Deputy Johnson wanted to spare his son and we agreed.”
Wadsworth speculated that Flentge would serve the majority - if not all - of the 15-year sentence.
In response to his wife’s death, Johnson has filed wrongful death civil lawsuit against Flentge, the Longhorn Saloon and Brian Black on behalf of himself and his son. Johnson claims that shortly before the crash, Flentge had been drinking at the Longhorn.
The petition alleges that liquor was served to Flentge when he “was obviously intoxicated to the extent he presented a clear danger to himself and others.” Local attorney Stephen L. Schaefer and San Antonio attorney Kevin F. Mickits serve as Johnson’s attorneys.
Black, who is represented by Kerrville attorney Clay Steadman, has denied that Flentge was in the Longhorn Saloon as alleged.