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Published: Friday, 2/2/2007

Pickup driver gets 18 months in fatal incident

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Robbie Ray Chasteen exits court after his sentencing in the East Toledo vehicular homicide of Calvin Johnson. Robbie Ray Chasteen exits court after his sentencing in the East Toledo vehicular homicide of Calvin Johnson.
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After listening to excuses from the man who killed her 23-year-old son, Mary Johnson told Judge Ruth Ann Franks she couldn't understand why her son died in a drug deal.

Ms. Johnson's son, Calvin, a suspected drug dealer, was killed when he tried to cling to Robbie Ray Chasteen's moving pickup as he fled from the Weiler Homes in East Toledo.

"Calvin was a beautiful person. I didn't deserve to lose my son,'' she said tearfully in a packed Lucas County Common Pleas courtroom. "I have to learn to forgive and forget, but that won't be an easy task.''

Chasteen, 36, was sentenced yesterday by Judge Franks to the maximum punishment of 18 months in prison for vehicular homicide, a fourth-degree felony.

Johnson, of Leach Street, was thrown to the street and killed Sept. 20 when Chasteen ran a stop sign at Butler and Earl streets and collided with a sport utility vehicle near the east side housing project.

Chasteen, of 5640 Clover Lane, claimed he believed Johnson was trying to sell him fake crack cocaine and he drove away, in fear, to protect himself and his girlfriend, who was a passenger in the truck.

Chasteen, who was driving with a suspended license, fled. Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene.

Ms. Johnson broke down in tears as she told Judge Franks about the impact the homicide has had on her family. Crying hysterically, she was taken from the courtroom. Judge Franks adjourned the sentencing for five minutes to allow Ms. Johnson to regain her composure and return for the rest of the proceeding.

The homicide parallels an incident in 1989 when Chasteen, then 19, drove a pickup into a group of teenagers who had gathered in a yard at a home in Oregon.

One of the teenagers tried to grab the steering wheel and was injured when Chasteen struck a light pole. Chasteen was convicted of negligent assault in the incident, one of many traffic-related convictions in the defendant's past.

Before being sentenced, Chasteen told Judge Franks that he has battled addiction to crack cocaine for years and attempted to get clean many times through treatment, but the drug continued to destroy his life.

He said Johnson's death turned him into a "changed man'' and vowed that he would never do drugs again.

"Crack has devastated me. I find myself in the position where a man has passed away. It has changed my life for the past four months. The first two months it was hard to deal with it,'' a tearful Chasteen said.

After reciting the three felony, nine misdemeanor, and numerous traffic convictions that were in the defendant's past Judge Franks said Chasteen had wasted many opportunities to turn his life around.

She said that as recently as October - after Johnson was killed - Chasteen was arrested on charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle and possession of drug paraphernalia.

"What you want us to believe is that this incident knocked you to your knees,'' but "that wasn't what was happening,'' she said.

Judge Franks said any sentence she would impose could not provide enough emotional comfort for the victim's mother or reflect the value that family members put on his life.

Chasteen was indicted for aggravated vehicular homicide. A county grand jury declined to indict him on the more serious offense of involuntary manslaughter.

He was convicted of vehicular homicide after entering into a plea agreement on Jan. 16.

In addressing the defendant's assertion that he was now a different person, Robert Clark, an assistant county prosecutor, said: "He minimizes his involvement by saying he doesn't like doing crack cocaine. I have never met anybody in 27 years [of being a prosecutor] who used crack cocaine and didn't like it.''

"Mr. Johnson was violently killed by Chasteen's decision and lack of judgment,'' Mr. Clark said.

Judge Franks also suspended Chasteen's driver's license for five years.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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