JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — A North Carolina man accused of running over a protestor in downtown Johnson City last fall went before a judge on Thursday.
Jared Lafer turned himself in last September after police identified him as the suspect in a hit-and-run involving a protester.
The aggravated assault charge against Lafer was reduced to reckless aggravated assault, bringing it from a Class C to Class D felony.
The protester who was run over, Johnathon Bowers, said he suffered two broken legs, a long-term concussion, and a brain bleed after he was struck by the vehicle.
Bowers described the incident during Thursday’s court hearing.
“I’ve got my hands full and my feet or sort of stuck up under the bumper so I’m not in a position to where I can quickly and easily get out of that spot,” Bowers said. “That’s the point where I made the first eye contact with the vehicle.”
“The car floored it and sucked me under. Next thing I know I’m unconscious.”
Attorneys for Lafer and the state questioned the victim and played a video of the hit-and-run from a nearby storage facility.
One of the attorneys asked a witness, Hannah Reid, if the person who was driving the vehicle return to the scene or stop at any point in time.
“No, they made it to the red light and then floored it through,” she said.
After the witness testimony, the court took a recess. When the court came back into session, a major with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office testified that he saw Reid and another witness, Elijah Gilmer, who had not yet testified, drive around the courthouse together during the recess.
“I saw those two and the only reason it [drew] attention to it as they were walking at a brisk pace… they went around together exited the left-hand side of the building,” said WCSO Major Larry Denny. “They went around back together and then pulled back around front.”
Denny said he wasn’t sure whether the two talked, or about what, but he did bring it to the attention of the lawyers.
“It does certainly fly in the face of the process, of the entire proceeding that we’re here about today to try and provide a fair and just criminal process for Mr. Lafer,” said Mac Meade, the principal lawyer for Lafer.
All witnesses took an oath to not speak about the case to each other when outside of the courtroom and when the judge asked if they wanted to answer questions about the incident both Reid and Gilmer plead the fifth.
“I’m not clear so, I’m just going to be safe and say ‘no’ so I’m not answering something I’m not sure about,” said Gilmer.
“I would prefer to remain silent,” said Reid when she took the stand.
The case was bound over to a grand jury. Lafer will appear in criminal court within the next few months.
Due to the Covid-19 backlog Lafer’s hearing was pushed back several months… and even started several hours later than scheduled Thursday.