“I just wasn’t in my right state of mind,” the 24-year-old Johnson said before being sentenced to 10 years in prison for rape and kidnapping charges. “I was drinking, but that didn’t have (anything) to do with it.”
Before Johnson spoke, his victim forgave him, but said she was permanently damaged by the November incident, which occurred at the Lefty Grove baseball fields by the Norwalk VFW. Huron County Prosecutor James Joel Sitterly said Johnson sexually assaulted the woman on the field before raping her in a dugout.
The two had met at a gathering at a Norwalk apartment with friends, Sitterly told Judge Jim Conway. The prosecutor said the woman rejected advances Johnson made toward her at the apartment. Sitterly didn’t say why they went to the fields and a police report was unavailable Wednesday.
The mother of two said she thought she was going to die as Johnson held her down with his left hand on her throat. He beat her with his right hand when she resisted and she said she nearly passed out.
She remains in pain from injuries to her cheekbone, knee and hip. The psychological trauma also remains.
The woman, who grew up in Norwalk, said she was subjected to threats and social media harassment, forcing her to move out of the city. She said she is afraid of living alone and going out alone at night and is afraid of men. The trauma has made her feel like the perpetrator rather than the victim.
“I would have rather been in jail and locked up than to be out here and to deal with everything I had to deal with after what he did,” the woman said as she choked back tears. “It’s not fair. This changed my life completely.”
Sitterly said the maximum penalty, a 20-year sentence, was appropriate given the “heinous” nature of the crime and the woman’s suffering.
However, defense attorney Donald Butler asked for leniency.
Butler said Johnson has accepted responsibility for his crimes and understands he will be classified as a Tier III sex offender. That means Johnson will have to register his address with authorities every 90 days for life and cannot live within 1,000 feet of schools or daycare centers.
“He understands he’s going to have to pay a price for what he did,” Butler said. “He will be paying, one way or the other, for this particular case for a long time.”
Butler said Johnson has a “loving, caring” family that will support him after he is released from prison. Butler said they can’t explain Johnson’s behavior.
Johnson’s criminal record includes an assault conviction as a juvenile, Conway said. As an adult, Johnson has aggravated menacing, burglary and theft convictions. He was on probation when the rape occurred and had a previous probation violation.
Nonetheless, Conway said 10 years was an appropriate sentence. Given Johnson’s age and because he had never been to prison before, the judge said 20 years was excessive.