Johnson Pleads Guilty to DUI Causing Death in the 2022 L’Anse Gas Station Crash

The driver of a semi-truck that veered off US-41 and killed a L’Anse man nearly 18 months ago has pled guilty.

In 12th Circuit Court in Baraga County this afternoon, Dawaun K. Johnson admitted that he had been drinking before the truck he was driving crashed into the Holiday gas station on US-41 in the late evening hours of October 14th, 2022.

Allan Dantes Jr., 43, was standing near a gas pump, and was killed as the truck veered through the station lot and crashed into the store. A station employee inside the store was also hurt. A customer inside the store escaped without injury. Neither Johnson nor a trainee riding with him were injured.Under questioning by Circuit Court Judge Brittany Bulleit, Johnson said that he had consumed half a fifth of brandy and fell asleep as he rounded the northbound curve on the highway at the edge of L’Anse. He did not know what his blood alcohol content was. Reports at the time indicated it was .15 percent – nearly twice the legal limit.Johnson pleaded guilty to the first of three counts that had been lodged against him – Operating Under the Influence Causing Death. Two other counts were dismissed, including Operating While Intoxicated Causing Serious Injury, and having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

The guilty plea means Johnson could spend up to 15 years in prison, be fined up to $10,000, and be assessed for court costs and the costs of fighting the explosion and fire that resulted from the crash.

The agreement did not address the length of the sentence. Prosecutor Joseph O’Leary remains free to request the maximum. Defense attorney Keith Deforge can lobby for a lesser term. Sentencing will take place in 45 to 60 days.

Johnson’s $100,000 bail was revoked, and he was taken into custody at the conclusion of this afternoon’s hearing. About a half-dozen of his friends and family members attended the session.

In accepting the agreement, Bulleit noted that the usual deadline for concluding a plea deal had passed. A jury trial had been scheduled to begin in early May. Attorneys on both sides explained that resolution of the case had been dependent on a ruling by an appellate court, which was issued only recently. Bulleit granted the exception to the customary schedule.

Johnson was working for the C.R. England Trucking Company, which owned the vehicle.