Curt Johnson Child Sex Assault Trial Delayed
Issues related to ongoing appeals, witnesses and other logistics have kept the child sex assault trial of Curt Johnson from going forward as scheduled.
The child sex assault trial of Curt Johnson is off this week, after a judge granted the state’s request for a delay, and the court of appeals ordered a halt to proceedings.
Johnson stands accused of repeated sexual assault of the same child, for allegedly abusing a girl over a period of several years. The trial was due to begin Monday morning, but Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz granted the District Attorney's motion for a continuance.
Later in the day, the court learned of a second reason to hold off: The Court of Appeals granted the prosecution's request for a stay of the local proceedings.
Johnson was charged on March 24, 2011 with first degree sexual assault of the same child. Since then, he pleaded not guilty and was released on $500,000 bail.
One of the billionaire heirs of the SC Johnson family, Johnson ran Diversey, Inc. until Feb. 2010. At that time, he stepped down citing personal problems, and his sister, Helen Johnson-Leopold took the reins. If convicted, Johnson faces up to 40 years in prison.
The delay granted Monday morning, stemmed from the state's request for an adjournment after it was unable to procure a key witness—the Arizona therapist who reportedly heard Johnson's alleged admission that he sexually abused the girl.
Gasiorkiewicz scolded the prosection for not exercising good judgment in attempts to get the witness here, but said he would grant the delay because this has been the first and only request made so far. He also said the delay would not put undue burden or stress on Johnson because he is not in jail.
According to an Arizona state statute read into the record by the judge, the person who filed the mandatory report of possible abuse does not have to include the name of the person to whom the alleged admission was made. Thus, the Dr. Withrow named in the referral that the Racine County Sheriff's office received is not necessarily the right therapist to subpoena. A Maricopa (AZ) judge is set to review Johnson's records from the clinic, which could help resolve the issue.
With no way to know if Johnson's records will even reveal the therapist who actually heard the supposed admission, Gasiorkiewicz gave the state some time to try and figure it out. In September the judge ruled that the alleged statements would be admissible if the state could produce the person to whom they were made.
Gasiorkiewicz said the state was “negligent” in how it has handled this part of the case.
“We don’t know if the records in Arizona will reveal the name of the person to get these alleged statements in," he said.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Repischak said he expected contact the District Attorney in Maricopa County on Monday for a status update.
"It's beyond my jurisdictional powers so I'm relying on other agencies to assist," he said after the hearing concluded.
Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete concurred.
"We will continue to follow up to secure witnesses," he said. "Our goal is that we want justice for this child victim of sexual assault."
Court of Appeals
On Monday morning, Gasiorkiewicz said a stay request filed that day with the Court of Appeals had no bearing on his decision. At the time, he did not know whether the Appeals Court would grant the stay or not.
By the end of the day, the Court of Appeals had ruled on it, putting a stop to local proceedings until at least May 18. That is the day the state’s time runs out to decide whether it wants to ask the State Supreme Court to weigh in on the issues surrounding the possible release of the victim's medical records and her testimony.
Chiapete said his office is coordinating with the Attorney General to move for the Supreme Court to review the court of appeals' decision.
A June 8 status conference is scheduled in front of Gasiorkiewicz.