110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Jun 11, 2012 - 4:11:00pm
John Yovaish was 19 years old in December 2009, when he stole a truck in New Smyrna Beach and headed west, to DeLand, police reports said. He was 22 when he appeared in court June 11 and pleaded no contest to charges related to the crash in which 40-year old David Johnson of DeLand died that night in 2009.
DeLand police officers tried to stop Yovaish, whom police said tried to run down an officer who ordered him to stop. The police then put out stop-sticks, which shred tires, in their effort to stop Yovaish. He did not stop, however.
Yovaish continued driving the truck, with tires deflated, and subsequently crashed into Johnson's SUV, according to reports by DeLand police and the Florida Highway Patrol. Johnson died at the scene; Yovaish suffered minor injuries.
In Judge Margaret Hudson's courtroom June 11, before jury selection could begin for a trial, Yovaish pleaded no contest to charges of:
• vehicular homicide
• grand theft with damage more than $1,000
• burglary of a conveyance
• grand theft — motor vehicle
• aggravated battery on a law-enforcement officer
• fleeing or attempting to elude
• driving while license canceled, suspended or revoked.
A plea of no contest means the defendant does not enter a plea — neither contesting nor refuting the charges, but not pleading guilty, either. The defendant is generally treated in the criminal justice system as guilty.
Yovaish had earlier failed to appear in court; he was taken back into custody on June 7.
Johnson, the father of two teenage children, was well-known in the Downtown DeLand community.
Sentencing is set for 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 17, for Yovaish, who could face from 13 years to life in prison.
In August 2010, the City of DeLand paid $100,000 to settle a claim with Johnson's estate. At that time, City Attorney Darren Elkind made it clear that a review revealed that DeLand police followed proper procedure and did nothing wrong in the case, but the cost of defending the case would be higher than settling the claim against the city — even if the city prevailed. The city's liability insurance covered most of the claim.
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