A woman in a 2018 collision on a motorcycle with her boyfriend – who died in the crash – told the judge she found forgiveness toward the other driver accused of driving under the influence of marijuana, until she learned about the man’s driving history. Now she’s asking the judge never to allow him behind the wheel again.
The other driver, Freddie Lee Slater, 55, of Gainesville, was charged with drunken driving manslaughter in the 2018 crash. Police said he was under the influence of marijuana. A judge revoked his bond at a pretrial hearing at the Alachua County courthouse last month after prosecutors learned he had been charged in Bradford County last year for driving without a valid license.
A jury trial was tentatively set to begin next week, although Slater’s lawyer asked the judge to delay the proceedings because the defense team said it was missing as many as 10 reports from fire and rescue paramedics who responded to the 2018 crash. The judge, William Davis, did not immediately rule on the request.
“Personal and medical observations of Mr. Slater, as well as interviews and statements gathered from all other individuals in this accident as well, is crucial information that must be gathered prior to the trial taking place,” wrote Slater’s lawyer, public defender Aaron Kelley.
The case stems from the 2018 crash that resulted in the death of Jeffrey Delong, 28, of Clermont, Florida. Authorities said Slater was driving a 1998 Lincoln Towncar on County Road 234 near Micanopy when he ran a stop sign at the intersection with U.S. 441 and turned into the path of Delong’s motorcycle. Delong, who was not wearing a helmet, was pronounced dead at the scene.
A toxicology report issued a month after the crash found Slater was under the influence of marijuana at the time.
The passenger on the motorcycle, Alaina Johnson, was wearing a helmet and suffered incapacitating injuries, authorities said.
The day of the crash was Mother’s Day and Johnson’s 25th birthday. She said Delong and she were on their way home from church, and she was about six weeks pregnant with Delong’s child with two more young children at home who are unrelated but close with Delong. The baby, a girl, was born about eight months later, in January 2019.
“I can never put into words the way it broke me inside when the paramedics on the scene told me Jeffrey didn’t make it,” she wrote to the judge last month. “I never knew what a scream and cry at the same time sounded like, until then.”
In her letter, she described her fury toward Slater over allegations he was driving under the influence. She said she suffered fractures in her ankle, foot and toes, plus nerve damage. She said she eventually forgave Slater – “people are human, they make mistakes,” she wrote – then learned about his other driving offenses. Her mind was changed.
“In that moment, that was when I realized that he clearly has NO REGARD for anyone,” she wrote to the judge. She asked that Slater never be allowed to drive again and asked the judge not to agree to any further trial delays.
Geico, Johnson’s insurance company, paid her $50,000 in 2019 to cover damages from the crash. Geico in turn sued Slater to recover that sum, and a different judge agreed on that judgment, but it’s unclear from public records whether Slater made that payment.
Slater’s lawyer said in a statement the crash was an accident, not a crime.
“There was no alcohol involved in this accident whatsoever, and no drugs or alcohol were found on scene,” Kelley said in the statement. “The state’s case rests entirely on one witness’s opinion about the possibility of impairment because a metabolite of cannabis was found in Mr. Slater’s system after the accident. That opinion will be challenged and contradicted by the defense’s expert, and by witnesses and observers.”
Slater was also cited for not having proof of insurance, using a license plate not assigned to the car he was driving and running a stop sign. He was acquitted on the charges involving insurance and the stop sign due to insufficient evidence. Prosecutors dropped the license plate charge in 2020.
According to Florida driving laws, a first offense DUI conviction with bodily harm requires a mandatory three-year driver’s license revocation. A DUI manslaughter conviction requires a mandatory permanent revocation. What happens to a driver’s license between offense and adjudication is less clear.
While Davis, the judge, initially instructed Slater not to drive in his 2020 arrest warrant order, Slater was able to get his license reinstated while the case remained open. In a first appearance order issued following his initial arrest, Slater was instructed not to drive unless he had a valid license.
Over the past four years, Slater’s license has been suspended and reinstated several times over past-due child support payments and his inability to pay civil fines and judgements, his attorney said.
Slater may have been able to obtain a hardship license permitting him to drive while his case was being adjudicated, it’s likely a hardship license would have been revoked after he was caught driving on a suspended license in 2021.
Slater’s latest suspension occurred in March when he was cited for careless driving after crashing into a parked car. His license was restored less than a month later, court records show.
“I just want to get this over with and to close this chapter of my life,” Johnson, the crash survivor, wrote to the judge. “I would like to get my closure, whatever that looks like and continue moving forward.”