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Staff writer

Timothy E. Johnson was sentenced Monday to 18 months in jail after he pleaded guilty earlier this year to inappropriately touching a 16-year-old girl in August and September 2012.

Johnson, 47, of Lusby was indicted in December on five counts each of sexual abuse of a minor and fourth-degree sex offense. He pleaded guilty in July to one count of sexual abuse of a minor, and the remaining charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement with the Calvert County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Johnson, who wiped tears from his face as he spoke before sentencing, said he was very sorry for what happened. Johnson said the incident happened at a time when his marriage was in disrepair and he was “looking for something.”

“It was a total mistake,” he said. “… I’ve lost everything. I just hope you give me a chance to rebuild my life.”

At 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5, 2012, a man and a woman made a report at the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office of a sexual offense involving the man’s daughter.

The woman said that on Oct. 1, 2012, while using an iPad the victim had recently used, she came across Facebook messages between the 16-year-old and Johnson. The woman read several messages, which were “very sexual in nature,” charging documents state.

Johnson rented part of his Lusby home to the victim’s father and the 16-year-old. After the woman told the girl’s father about the messages, he went to his daughter’s school to speak with her. The girl allegedly began to cry and apologized to her father after admitting she and Johnson had an inappropriate relationship.

Maryland State Police troopers met with the girl Oct. 11 at the Department of Social Services. She told troopers she had about 15 sexual encounters with Johnson, which began in August and ended in September 2012. She said she did not want any sexual activity to occur and told Johnson “no” on several occasions.

At 2:30 p.m. Nov. 6, troopers met with the girl again. The girl said some of the incidents happened at Johnson’s workplace, where he was, at the time of the incident, the president of Trumbull Mechanical Services in Waldorf, according to charging documents.

The girl told police Johnson would send her text messages and visit her throughout the day during normal work hours. Johnson allegedly tried to kiss her at the office and she said “no,” troopers said, and Johnson then “hugged her and rubbed” her body. The girl told police of about 15 occasions when Johnson allegedly kissed her, touched her inappropriately and forced her to touch him, charging documents state.

Before handing down the sentence Monday, Calvert County Circuit Court Judge E. Gregory Wells said although Johnson’s attorney made a “compelling case” for sentencing Johnson to probation before judgment, the case involved a 16-year-old girl who has been manipulated by Johnson. Wells said it was important to impose some period of incarceration due to the nature of the offense while also “taking into account” Johnson’s remorse.

“I want to send the community a message … that the age of the victim is not important,” Wells said to Johnson. “You took advantage of a young lady.”

Wells sentenced Johnson to 10 years in prison, with all but 18 months suspended, and placed him on five years of supervised probation upon his release, with special conditions including continuing mental health treatment, providing a DNA sample, registering as a sex offender and having no contact with the victim.

Defense attorney Robert C. Bonsib called the case a “difficult” one. He said at the time of the offense, Johnson was going through “personal difficulties.” Bonsib said the incident was not a reflection of who Johnson is as a person, but rather is a consequence of poor judgment during a “vulnerable period” in his life.

“He was emotionally vulnerable,” Bonsib said of Johnson, adding that it was a “situation that got beyond what it intended to be.”

Bonsib said Johnson “recognizes” that he put the victim in “a very tenable position” and that it was an “unusual” relationship. Prior to sentencing, Bonsib argued for a sentence of probation before judgement, stating he believed incarceration for Johnson was “not appropriate” because the “punishment will last” long after sentencing.

“He has already been incredibly, severely punished” for his actions through the loss of his job, his family, his ability to provide for his family and the fact that he will have to register as a sex offender, Bonsib said. “Not only has he lost his relationship with his daughter … literally everything in his life has gone topsy-turvy.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Kathryn Marsh, who prosecuted the case, said she believed Johnson already benefited when the court agreed to cap the sentence at 18 months after considering the loss of his job, home and family, and that he was in counseling, among other factors. She said no further consideration should be given, and he should be sentenced to an 18-month active sentence.

Brenda Thompson, Johnson’s sister, said her brother is a “very caring, kind, compassionate person” who has “done a lot of good” things throughout his life. She said her brother has expressed to her how sorry he is for his actions.

“He is not a threat to anyone,” Thompson said. “I don’t think he’s a threat to [the victim] or anyone else.”

Dr. Maureen Vernon, a psychologist, said she has been seeing Johnson on a biweekly basis since February. She said she believes the “lines and boundaries were blurred when” both Johnson and the victim were vulnerable, but Johnson is the adult and should not have crossed that line. Vernon also said she has a “strong degree” of certainty that Johnson does not “fit the profile” of someone who would reoffend.

During sentencing, Wells said he was hopeful Johnson would not reoffend, but the court could not be certain of that.

Marsh argued that not anyone who knew Johnson would have predicted he “would do this,” but the victim knew him as someone other than the kind, caring and wonderful person his family and friends described. She said the victim initially told Johnson “no” when he made advances toward her, and, since she trusted Johnson, eventually “kind of consented.”

“Her first ‘no’ should have been enough,” Marsh said, adding that Johnson took advantage of the authoritative relationship he had with the victim and violated her trust. Marsh said now is the time for the court to consider punishment and restitution, which is not monetary but peace of mind for the victim knowing Johnson will be held accountable for his actions.

“He hurt me greatly,” the victim told the court through sobs.

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com