RACINE — A man charged in a 2019 fatal hit & run has changed his mind about a no-contest plea for the crime he claims he did not commit.
Johnny Lee Taylor Sr., 74, of Kenosha, was in Racine County Circuit Court on Tuesday where he was allowed to withdraw the no contest plea to hit & run involving death that he made in September.
A no contest plea is treated as a guilty plea for the purposes of sentencing.
“Given that he is maintaining his innocence, I will allow him to withdraw his plea,” Judge Robert Repischak said.
A jury trial was scheduled to begin on March 1, 2022.
Teren Cagle was just 18 years old and a senior at Park High School on Jan. 7, 2019.
He was riding his bike along Highway 32, near Hansche Road, in Mount Pleasant, when he was struck from behind.
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Using surveillance footage from a nearby home, police saw that a truck appeared to strike the bicyclist at about 10:05 p.m.
The truck then appears to circle back, slowly drive past, and then carry on without stopping or anyone getting out of the vehicle.
Cagle reportedly was left in a ditch next to the road for 41 minutes until a Racine County sheriff’s deputy was called to the scene at 10:46 p.m. for a report of an unconscious male in a ditch. Cagle died as a result of head and internal injuries at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa.
According to the criminal complaint:
The collision with the bicycle left debris from the pickup on the roadway.
Officers gathered the pieces, discovered a serial number on a part, which narrowed down the type of vehicle they were looking for and allowed them to do a check for the known vehicles in the area.
One of those vehicles belonged to Taylor.
When confronting Taylor, officers observed that parts of Taylor’s vehicle had been replaced, but there was damage to the windshield in the shape of a human head.
Taylor was arrested following an investigation by the Mount Pleasant Police Department.
Taylor was in district court on Monday for a scheduled sentencing hearing.
However, Judge Robert Repischak halted proceedings due to comments Taylor made in the pre-sentence investigation report in which he maintained his innocence in the death of Cagle.
Repischak gave the defendant time to confer with his legal counsel, Jeremy Samuels, and rescheduled the hearing for Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the judge questioned Taylor.
“At this point, you continue to maintain that you did not commit this offense, correct?” Repischak asked.
“Correct,” Taylor responded.
“I would have a very hard time proceeding to sentencing knowing you are denying committing this offense, which leaves us really with the option of withdrawing your plea, and scheduling the matter for trial,” Repischak said.
Jennifer Tanck-Adams, assistant district attorney, asked for a hearing to determine whether the plea was deficient, and offered a trial date as a backup plan.
Judge Repischak ruled against the request for an additional hearing, saying “I don’t believe the plea itself is deficient.”
He added that since Taylor maintained his innocence, he should be allowed to withdraw his plea.