RACINE – Curt Johnson was sentenced Friday to four months in jail stemming from an accusation that he had inappropriate sexual contact with his stepdaughter.
Johnson must also pay a $6,000 fine. He is to report to the Racine County Jail June 14. He will not be required to register as a sex offender.
Johnson, 59, an heir to the Johnson family household products fortune, pleaded guilty Friday to fourth-degree sexual assault and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors.
Johnson was accused of molesting his teenage stepdaughter for three years, beginning when she was 12 years old.
Circuit Court Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz sentenced Johnson to the jail time and fine Friday, saying, "What you did here was wrong, so very, very wrong.”
Gasiorkiewicz said in sentencing he had to think of the victim and what effect this has had on her. He told Johnson, “The things you do in this life don’t just affect you. They affect those who love you, who care for you, who trust you."
Johnson faced a maximum sentence of one year in the Racine County Jail and $11,000 in fines, or both.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Repischak — the prosecutor on the case — recommended the full year in jail, saying, “this was not a one-time, I'm sorry, I'll never do it again situation.” Rather, the sexual abuse went on for years, he said.
Repischak added Johnson has the means to go anywhere in the world to satisfy his sexual desires but chose his own home.
Johnson’s attorney meanwhile said his client has no prior record and has been cooperative in court. He recommended four months in the Racine County Jail.
Gasiorkiewicz ultimately agreed the maximum sentence was not appropriate.
Johnson was initially charged with repeated sexual assault of the same child, a felony with the potential for prison time. But the teen and her mother have refused to cooperate with prosecutors and a related case seeking the release of Johnson’s medical records from therapy in Arizona is held up in appellate court.
So prosecutors offered Johnson a deal to plead to the two misdemeanors, which he did Friday.
Johnson appeared somber in court, with his mother and other family members seated behind him. He answered the judge’s questions with a quiet, “Yes, your honor.”
He addressed the court just before sentencing and apologized for the “tremendous hurt” he has caused his stepdaughter and her mother.
Johnson, of Wind Point, is the former chairman of Diversey Inc. and a son of the late SC Johnson chairman, Sam Johnson.
The teen told her mother — Johnson’s wife — in January of 2011 that her stepfather had “inappropriate sexual contact” with her. Her mother then confronted Johnson in February of 2011 and Johnson “eventually admitted to inappropriate contact,” court records state.
After being confronted, Johnson agreed to go into counseling, where he told a therapist in Arizona that he inappropriately touched his “daughter,” documents show. Arizona law requires that health care providers, such as therapists, report suspected child sexual assaults, and this allegation was reported to the authorities.
Johnson pleaded not guilty on April 13, 2011. The case has been ongoing since then, while both sides have appealed a series of rulings.
Roadblocks to prosecution
In a justification of the amended charges and plea deal, Repischak detailed how his efforts to prosecute Johnson have been hog-tied.
First, Johnson’s stepdaughter and her mother obtained lawyers, which legally halted communications with Repischak because he can’t talk with them once they have attorneys.
The teen and her mother have repeatedly refused to cooperate with prosecutors, including regarding testifying against Johnson if his case went to trial.
The mother and daughter also have refused to release the girl’s medical records, triggering a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that the teen could not take the witness stand against Johnson if she didn’t first disclose her medical records for a private judicial review.
Johnson’s attorneys then sought to block the release of Johnson’s medical records from his therapy in Arizona. Arizona Appellate Court records show that case still is pending.
But Repischak said Friday he believes that even if the records were released they would not prove helpful in prosecution. Johnson’s wife told Repischak the Arizona clinic had arranged treatment of Johnson “without the risk of further disclosure,” he said.
"I have reasonable belief that any records that my have been drafted at that point may have been edited, scrubbed," he said.
Therefore, Repischak has stated, “Any hope of successfully prosecuting the defendant on the felony charge is virtually nonexistent.”
He has said: “The only viable option available,” other than dismissing the entire case, “is a misdemeanor resolution.”