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Driver pleads guilty in fatal wreck

Late motorcyclist’s family, friends sought harsher sentence

POSTED: June 27, 2013 12:28 a.m.
Jim Dean/

Motorcyclists from a Dawson County club protest in front of the Forsyth County courthouse

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Jimmy Darrell Barnett Jr. handed over his driver’s license Tuesday after pleading guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide in connection with a September collision that killed a 45-year-old Dahlonega man.

The Murrayville resident was driving a Chevrolet Trailblazer on Hwy. 53 near the Forsyth-Hall county line when he failed to yield before turning left. He turned into the motorcycle of Sidney Paul Agent Jr.

Forsyth County Chief State Court Judge Russell McClelland accepted a plea deal agreed to by both parties, sentencing Barnett to 12 months of probation, a $1,100 fine, 100 hours of community service, a defensive driving course and paying $250 toward college expenses for Agent’s 19-year-old daughter, Jadelyn.

The teenager spoke during Tuesday’s plea hearing about “all the things I’ll go without because of [Barnett’s] carelessness.”

“My dad and I had the best relationship,” she said. “… He was my best friend, my rock, my shoulder to cry on. I won’t have my dad to walk me down the aisle at my wedding … my children will never meet their grandfather.

“All I have are the memories.”

Agent’s sister, Patricia Davis also spoke in court, describing her brother as a fan of outdoor sports, particularly baseball. She also said he was funny, responsible and a hero, having served more than 21 years as a U.S. Army Ranger, including a tour in Iraq.

Davis shared how she had been the one who received the phone call about her brother’s death after the collision.

“I hope to God nobody ever has to get that call,” she said. “Nothing can ever take that heartbreak away from me.”

Davis pleaded with the judge, contending that “the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.”

“I don’t wish to harm Mr. Bennett,” she said. “Ultimately, we have lost because of his action.”

According to McClelland, he was limited in sentencing because the traffic offense is considered a misdemeanor.

“I can’t change what the charge is or the maximum punishment for the charge,” he said. Misdemeanors are 12 months or less ... I’m constrained based on the maximum sentence.”

Barnett, who was 41 at the time of the wreck, addressed Agent’s family in court before sentencing.

“I have been living with this horror since the day of the accident,” he said. “I cannot even begin to fathom how the family feels. I am extremely, very sorry.”

The courtroom was full of Agent’s family members, as well as friends and fellow motorcyclists from the Dawson County Wingmen.

Club members, including president D.J. Wight, had organized a protest Tuesday morning in front of the courthouse.

“He was one of our members and me and Sid served together up at mountain Ranger phase in Dahlonega,” Wight said. “It’s kind of messed up that somebody can survive through the war and come home and be killed by somebody else because they weren’t paying attention.”

Members of the club and Agent’s family said they also wanted to encourage all motorists to use caution.

In court, Jadelyn Agent reiterated the wingmen’s message that “motorcyclists deserve the same rights as cars on the road.”

 

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