A former cadet in Seneca Valley's Junior ROTC program testified Tuesday that he feared for his family’s life after he rebuffed the advances of his instructor, a retired Army Sergeant Major.
“He said he could take out my family,” the former cadet testified during the second day of trial for former instructor Sgt. Major Kevin Johnson. “I thought it meant he would kill them.”
The young man went on to testify about five incidents in 2006 and 2007 in which he said Johnson molested him on school grounds. Now 20, he is one of two former Seneca Valley cadets and students to accuse Johnson of sexual assaults prior to 2008.
The man is not being named because Patch does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
Johnson, 54, of Portersville, has pleaded not guilty and is standing trial for a second time on nearly 50 charges, including indecent assault and corruption of minors. His first trial in 2009 ended in a mistrial after Len Keller, then the police chief of Jackson Township, testified that Johnson had declined to submit to a polygraph test. The test results are not admissable in court.
One of the former cadets and students testified Monday. On Tuesday, the second testified before Butler County Judge Timothy McCune that Johnson touched him inappropriately for the first time in October 2006, when he was a sophomore. That incident occurred after he'd asked Johnson to teach him how to wrestle, the former cadet said.
Johnson agreed to teach him on two conditions, he said—that he tell no one about the lessons and that he agree to do what Johnson told him to do.
“I said OK,” the young man testified. “It didn’t seem that bad.”
Johnson directed him to the Junior ROTC’s artillery room in the intermediate high school, the former cadet testified. He said he changed into gym clothes and followed Johnson’s instructions to lie on his back on a blue gym mat, where he said Johnson started to touch him.
“He started massaging up my leg and then going higher,” he said.
The young man said he ended the contact after Johnson’s hand reached under his gym shorts and touched his pubic area. Johnson never explained his actions to him, he said.
“He acted like nothing really happened,” he said.
The former cadet also testified that Johnson molested him in April 2007 after he asked Johnson for a dress uniform to wear for an upcoming military ball. He said Johnson attempted to touch him inside his underpants while he tried on the uniform in the instructor's office.
While participating in Junior ROTC drills the following month, the former cadet reluctantly went to Johnson's office after Johnson summoned him, he testified.
“He was a teacher, and I didn’t want to disobey him,” he said.
Tthe young man testified that he struggled to get away after Johnson approached from behind and put his hands into the young man's pants. He said he believed this angered Johnson.
Johnson said then that the young man's “family wouldn’t be the same without him,” and that he could “take out” the young man's family members, the former cadet testified. He said he interpreted this to mean Johnson would kill his loved ones if he told anyone about the incidents.
“I thought he was fully capable of it,” he said in response to questioning from Assistant District Attorney Mark Lope. “I don’t know what I’d do without my family.”
He said he did not tell anyone about the incident then because he was too scared.
Later that month, the young man said he was serving time for an in-school suspension when Johnson called him to the Junior ROTC area. The former student, who said he had trouble sleeping, took a nap on a gym mat. When he awoke, he said, Johnson was stroking him inside his pants.
“I got up and left,” he testified.
He said his final contact with Johnson came when he told the instructor goodbye at the end of a summer school course in 2007.
“I thought I wouldn’t have to worry anymore,” he said.
Instead, he said, Johnson again touched him inappropriately before he broke away. After that incident, the young man said, he confided in a friend and later his mother. He said he told her he'd initially kept silent because ”I didn’t want to lose any of them.”
The man’s family contacted the school district as well as Jackson Township police. Since then, a civil lawsuit filed by both former cadets has been settled for $100,000, with $40,000 allocated for attorney fees and the remaining $60,000 split by the two former cadets.
Defense attorney David Shrager questioned why the young man went to Johnson to obtain a new dress uniform rather than contacting retired Army Lt. Col. Susan Oliver, who at the time also was a Junior ROTC instructor at Seneca Valley.
“If this had happened, wouldn’t you go to her for a uniform?” he said.
Shrager also questioned how the young man could have felt comfortable enough to fall asleep in the Junior ROTC area while serving detention if he were as frightened of Johnson as he claimed.
“That’s crazy talk,” he said.
After testimony from Michael Riol, the friend in whom the young man initially confided, Shrager used his words to paint the young man as a braggart who craved attention.
In a written statement to police, Riol, also 20, said he initially thought his friend was kidding when the young man claimed Johnson had assaulted him.
“At first I thought he was joking, but he stuck with his story,” he said.
Riol said his friend told him to stay quiet about the incidents. When he tried to bring up the subject in the future, Riol said his friend became very upset.
In response to questioning from Shrager, Riol said his friend liked to be the center of attention and often boasted of his skill playing video games. He added, however, that he never knew the young man to be untruthful.
Also Tuesday, two experts in DNA analysis testified for the prosecution. Testimony is expected to last through Wednesday.
Check back with Cranberry Patch for continued coverage of the trial.