A former licensed vocational nurse who refused treatment to a diabetic inmate at the Bi-State Justice Center jail last year pleaded guilty to misdemeanor negligent homicide at a hearing Monday in Miller County.
Brittany Danae Johnson, 27, was ordered to serve six months in jail with 90 days of the sentence suspended, as part of a plea agreement stemming from the July 1, 2016, death of Morgan Angerbauer. Brittany Johnson also received credit for one day she already spent in jail. Brittany Johnson will serve about three months behind bars.
Miller County Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson would not accept a plea of no contest from Brittany Johnson when the case was first called Monday morning. A short time later, the case was called again and Brittany Johnson entered a guilty plea with the assistance of Texarkana attorney Jeff Harrelson. Brittany Johnson was taken into custody immediately after Morgan Angerbauer’s mother, Jennifer Houser, gave a victim impact statement.
Houser said her life was “shattered” the morning she learned of her daughter’s death.
“I will never get to see her get married, have children, or spend another birthday or holiday with her,” Houser said. “You get to move on. Morgan never will.”
Houser referred in her statement to video surveillance footage from the jail which shows Angerbauer banged on the door and asked for help for hours before she collapsed in the medical observation cell where she was being kept just 20 feet from the nurse’s station where Brittany Johnson was working the evening of June 30, 2016. Brittany Johnson admitted she refused when Angerbauer asked her to check her blood sugar at about 5 p.m. June 30.
Brittany Johnson told Angerbauer, “It doesn’t work like that,” when she was asked to check the inmate’s blood sugar, according to a probable cause affidavit. Brittany Johnson told investigators after Angerbauer’s death that if she let inmates decide when they would get medical treatment she would never get anything done.
Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black said she believes it is fitting that Brittany Johnson serve some time in jail. Black originally charged Brittany Johnson with misdemeanor negligent homicide but amended the charge to felony manslaughter in August. Black said the plea agreement to the misdemeanor charge allowed the case to be resolved without putting Angerbauer’s family through the stress of a trial.
After finding Angerbauer unresponsive in her cell shortly after 4 a.m. July 1, 2016, Brittany Johnson did not call for paramedics. Instead she repeatedly tried to test Angerbauer’s blood sugar. When she was unable to get a numerical reading, Brittany Johnson forced pure sugar into Angerbauer’s mouth. When paramedics finally arrived more than 40 minutes after Angerbauer was found vomiting and unconscious, Angerbauer was pronounced dead.
The Texas Board of Nursing has suspended Brittany Johnson’s nursing license.
Little Rock lawyer Matthew Campbell filed a civil lawsuit in September 2016 on behalf of Angerbauer’s estate in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas against Brittany Johnson, LaSalle Corrections and owners and administrators of LaSalle. When the suit was first filed, Angerbauer’s mother, Jennifer Houser was named as administrator of the estate by Circuit Judge Carlton Jones in a probate case in Miller County. In May, Campbell requested that the estate administrator be changed to Little Rock attorney Victoria Leigh. Last week Campbell filed a motion in Miller County asking Jones to approve a legal services contract. Campbell and lawyers representing the defendants filed a joint notice last week of intent to settle the civil case for $200,000.