DECATUR — State officials on Friday said they couldn’t immediately explain why a Decatur man convicted in a Sept. 4 fatal crash still had his driver’s license when he was involved in a second deadly wreck two months later. Three people died in the incidents.
The license of Andrew J. Johnson, 29, would be revoked, Illinois secretary of state's office spokesman Henry Haupt said in a statement Friday. The Pantagraph and Decatur's Herald & Review first reported Thursday afternoon about Johnson's involvement in the two U.S. 51 crashes that killed three people.
"(Friday), we obtained the IDOT crash report and will now revoke the driver's license, including his privilege to drive any commercial motor vehicle," Haupt said. "Secretary (Jesse) White is outraged at the reckless behavior by Mr. Johnson that took the lives of three people."
Greg Fombelle, Johnson's attorney, declined to comment, citing pending criminal charges.
In both crashes, police said, Johnson, who was not injured in either, was attempting to cross U.S. 51 when he collided with the other vehicles.
Police say he was driving a grain-hauling semitrailer truck that collided with the vehicle of Tony and Karen Hable, both 57, of Clinton on Nov. 11 in DeWitt County.
Johnson was driving a pickup truck in the Sept. 4 crash in Macon that killed 80-year-old Phil Jacobs of Pana, who died from his injuries eight days later. Johnson was convicted Sept. 28 of failure to yield at an intersection in that case.
According to the Illinois Rules of the Road, the secretary of state will "immediately revoke the driving privileges of anyone who is convicted of a moving violation that caused a crash and resulted in the death of another person."
Haupt said that to revoke a license, the office must receive a report from the Illinois Department of Transportation that indicates the crash led to a fatality, which he said did not happen in Johnson's case until Friday.
"We needed the crash report, because otherwise (we) would just have the failure-to-yield conviction," Haupt said. "We can't act on that alone. People can receive a ticket in those situations, but it doesn't necessarily lead to a license being suspended."
In the crash near Macon, Johnson stopped on West Andrews Street Road and then tried to continue west through the intersection when his pickup collided with the southbound vehicle of Phil Jacobs and his wife, Norma Jean Jacobs. She was taken to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield and treated for several broken bones.
In the DeWitt County crash, Johnson was driving a semi that crossed northbound traffic and headed south on the highway, DeWitt County Coroner Randy Rice has said. The car carrying the Hables was traveling north and struck the truck's trailer.
It's unclear why the secretary of state's office did not receive the report for the Sept. 4 crash until Friday, more than a month after Johnson was convicted in Macon County Circuit Court. Haupt could not say how long the process usually takes.
IDOT spokeswoman Kelsea Gorski said the department could not immediately comment on the issue Friday afternoon.
Macon County Sheriff's Lt. Jon Butts said deputies are required to submit crash reports to IDOT after they are completed. Some are submitted electronically from squad cars, he said, while others are handwritten if the vehicle doesn't have the technology installed.
Butts said the report for the Sept. 4 fatal crash was approved by a commanding officer on Sept. 10 and submitted electronically to IDOT the next day.
Sometimes, Butts said, the sheriff's office's process of submitting crash reports to IDOT is delayed due to a need for further investigation. In the case of the crash that killed Jacobs, the sheriff's office needed to submit a followup report to IDOT noting that Jacobs died Sept. 12.
He could not immediately say on Friday when the follow-up was submitted.
Johnson's driving privileges will be revoked for an indefinite time, but he will be able to reapply for a license after a minimum of one year, according to Brenda Glahn, legal adviser for the secretary of state's office.
In cases similar to Johnson's, Glahn said people can appeal to the office for a shorter revocation period by proving extenuating circumstances, such as inclement weather or impaired visibility, led to the crashes.
"If (the secretary of state) says the appeal is good, then the person will pay a reinstatement fee, file for SR-22 insurance and go through the driver's testing process again," Glahn said.
Driving records and accident reports will be reviewed in the appeal process, she said.