Man pleads guilty in DUI crash that injured two; set for jail release

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

A Baltimore man admitted he had taken Xanax and fentanyl, and used marijuana, when he caused a crash that reportedly broke a man’s neck in York County two years ago. Then he was released from jail the same day with time already served.

Johthan Murray, 31, pleaded guilty to three of the 14 charges against him during a hearing in the York County Court of Common Pleas on Thursday.

The plea involved a third-degree felony count of an accident involving death or injury while driving without a license and misdemeanor counts of being impaired while driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license. The other 11 charges, including two felony aggravated assault by vehicle counts, were dismissed.

More:Walmart in York County temporarily shuts down due to COVID-19

More:Spring Garden college student writes own name on November ballot, wins constable position

More:Man robbed at Motel 6 after calling for escort: police

Johthan Michael Murray

Under terms of the plea agreement, Murray was sentenced to serve 11½ to 23 months in York County Prison and pay fines.

Because Murray has already served time at the prison and has accrued 350 days of credit time, Judge Gregory Snyder granted his release Thursday. Snyder then ordered Murray to report to the county’s probation department within 48 hours.

During the hearing, Murray admitted he was impaired, after having used Xanax, fentanyl and THC, and that his license was suspended while he drove a U-Haul van on Interstate 83 near the Queen Street exit the night of Oct. 17, 2019. Murray said a vehicle had stopped in the right lane with no lights or flashers on. He also indicated he was about to be blocked by traffic in the left lane.

York Township rescue crews were called to help two people badly hurt after a U-Haul van crashed into two other vehicles on Interstate 83 near the Queen Street exit on Oct. 17, 2019. One person was likely paralyzed in the crash, another suffered a broken pelvis, police said.

Murray said he attempted to swerve past the stopped vehicle, but he ended up crashing into it and injuring the driver.

“As far as I know, the victim had a series of injuries,” Murray said, but he didn’t know the extent of the injuries.

The night of the crash, state police said a person had a broken neck after a vehicle was struck. Also, a passenger in Murray’s van suffered a crushed pelvis, a broken leg and internal damages, police had said.

The plea focused solely on the injured person in the other vehicle.

Prior to the plea, Judge Snyder nearly halted the hearing because Murray appeared in court from the prison via a video call instead of in person. He indicated concerns about Murray’s right to be sentenced while seated physically in court. Concerns were also expressed about background noises from the prison coming through the call and creating distractions.

Murray explained he couldn’t be transported to court since his pod at the jail was under quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak there at the time. He noted he was not infected with the coronavirus.

Snyder asked whether the hearing could be rescheduled, but attorneys pointed out that could cause a conflict with Pennsylvania’s speedy trial law.

Murray consented in court to waiving his right to be sentenced in person, and the guilty plea process resumed.

— Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter: @aimee_TYD.