On the evening of February 7th, 2021, 35-year old Johnny Widerman, was driving southbound on hwy-101 in his grandfather’s Chevy truck, under the influence of drugs and with a known mechanical problem, when he crossed over the center line into the northbound lane, striking a Chrysler SUV carrying a family of four. The front passenger seat was occupied by a 20-year old male, who was tragically killed. The survivors, a woman and two young children, suffered significant injuries. One child passenger spent a month in pediatric intensive care in Portland for, among other things, treatment of a cervical spine fracture and traumatic brain injury.
Widerman admitted to methamphetamine and marijuana use prior to driving and had methamphetamine and marijuana in his blood and urine, including 7.7 ng/mL of delta-9 THC (the impairing compound in marijuana) in his blood. Oregon does not have a “per se” limit for marijuana DUIIs, but for comparison Colorado and Washington have set per se limits at 5.0 ng/mL. Officers specially trained in drug-impaired driving detection and enforcement, OSP Sgt. David Wertz and former NPD Officer Calvin Davis, played a significant role in the DUII investigation, documenting many signs of impairment of CNS stimulants and cannabis, and collecting blood and urine samples for testing.
On March 11, 2022 a Lincoln County jury unanimously found Widerman guilty on ten charges, including Manslaughter in the Second Degree, Criminally Negligent Homicide, Assault in the Third Degree (two counts), Assault in the Fourth Degree, DUII, Reckless Driving and Criminal Mischief. The State was represented by Chief Deputy District Attorney, R. Lynn Howard, who continues to prosecute impaired drivers to the fullest extent of the law.
Sentencing will be held tomorrow Thursday, March 17th, 2022. The District Attorney's Office thanked the Newport Police Department, Oregon State Police, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and Oregon State Police Crime Lab for their dedicated work in this case. This case is a stark reminder about the dangers of impaired driving, and that marijuana can impair a person’s ability to drive for a significant time after ingestion.