Taylor Lindsey, president of a now-disbanded Denver car club, was sentenced to 20 years on Oct. 6 after the Denver District Court heard statements from the victim’s family.
Jake Johnson, 30, was working a night shift early in the morning of July 30, 2022, delivering pizza for his second job at Domino’s, when Lindsey crashed into his car and fled. He left Johnson and three other passengers from Lindsey’s car on the scene.
Michele Johnson, Jake’s mother, was the first to give her statement to Judge Alex C. Myers. “Taylor took my ability to see joy and innocence in the world,” she said, weeping. “Amidst our grief, the love of our family has not wavered.”
Johnson’s wife, Ivy, was not present in person in court. She instead recorded a statement for Judge Myers, asserting that she could not face Lindsey. “No matter how many years a sentence Taylor gets, it’s not going to bring my Jake back for me,” Ivy said in the recording. “Maybe one day society will take reckless driving more seriously. I have endless nightmares of Jake dying and me trying to save him, but I couldn’t.”
An autopsy of Johnson showed that he had skull fractures and severe damage to internal organs, which the prosecution claims are consistent with injuries received from a vehicle at “very rapid acceleration.”
Christina Ambrose, Johnson’s cousin, described the night she was told he was pronounced dead on the scene. Ambrose took care of Ivy for months after she was widowed. “I called Jake’s parents. I said the words ‘Jake died.’ I heard his mother scream over the phone, which haunted me. I heard Jake’s brother screaming in our bathroom,” Ambrose said to the judge. “I made soup to keep Ivy alive as she was withering away in front of me.”
The prosecution asked the judge to sentence Lindsey to 20 years. Prosecutor Chad Harple showed pictures of Johnson’s car after the crash in court and said an expert estimated Lindsey’s speed at the time of the crash to be 80 mph, double the speed limit on Peña Boulevard. Lindsey’s attorney, Michael Faye, argued that an expert consulted by the defense thought differently but did not provide an exact speed.
There were three other passengers in Lindsey’s car when he fled the scene after the crash. All sustained serious injuries.
The mother of one of the passengers in Lindsey’s car during the accident also provided a statement to the court. Shelly Lawson said her daughter, Lindsay, simply needed a ride after a car meet, but it “tragically changed her life.” Lindsay was in the backseat during the crash and suffered a traumatic brain injury which forced her to withdraw from college and move back in with her mother at 22 years old.
“My daughter has been bullied by endless people in this car community,” Lawson said. “People in this car community aren’t bad people. There are just bad eggs. My daughter builds cars and replaces engines. She’s a good person who didn’t deserve this.”
Taylor Lindsey was convicted of two felonies—leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and vehicular assault resulting in serious bodily injury to all four victims. Lindsey received 20 years for the former class three felony charge and six years for the latter, to be served concurrently. Steven Johnson, Jake’s father, feels the 20-year sentence is not enough. “None of us are happy with 20 years,” he said after the hearing. “But we’ll have to learn to live with it.”
When the crash occurred in 2022, Lindsey was on probation having pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in an incident in December 2020. He punched and kicked a man in the face, then fired a gun when he tried to run, almost hitting the man’s companion in the head. According to police reports, Lindsey repeatedly violated his probation.
“He’s old enough to know better. If the law was working, he would’ve been incarcerated for violating his probation, wouldn’t be on the street, and Jake would be alive,” said Tina Johnson, Jake’s aunt, after the hearing. “The system failed. It feels like wrongful death to me.”
Judge Myers addressed Lindsey after handing down his sentence. “I really hope those words hit home, and that they’re going to stick with you like they’re going to stick with me.” The judge said the emotions in the courtroom during the victim’s statements were not lost on him. “When you are out—and you will get out—hopefully, you learn from that mistake and be more mature, and hopefully wiser, so you can be a contributing member of our society.”
Folks may contribute to the GoFundMe for Jake’s wife Ivy here.