A former Sonoma middle school wrestling coach, who successfully challenged his lengthy prison term for having consensual sex with underage girls, pleaded no contest this afternoon to six counts of committing lewd acts with girls under age 14 and was immediately sentenced to 18 years in prison. Jonathan Johnson, 27, could have been retried in Sonoma County Superior Court on 40 counts alleging unlawful sex with a minor, but the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office and defense attorney Jamie
Thistlethwaite reached a plea agreement stipulating an 18-year prison term. Deputy District Attorney Marianna Green said the prosecution did not want the victims to go through a lengthy, traumatic trial. She and Thistlethwaite said the plea agreement is fair and both sides worked hard to reach an agreement. Thistlethwaite said with credit for time served, Johnson will serve about 9 years of his 18-year term. He has been in custody since he was convicted in December 2003 of 40 counts of unlawful sex with 11 girls in 2001 and 2002 when he was over age 18. Several of the victims testified at Johnson’s trial the sex was consensual. One said she was raped. Johnson was acquitted of that charge. Johnson was a wrestling coach at Adele Harrison Middle School and
a volunteer coach at Sonoma Valley High School. His no contest plea today involved sex with six of the underage girls. Green said all six victims agree with the plea agreement and stipulated sentence. The remaining 34 counts were dismissed. Johnson was sentenced to two, consecutive 15-years-to life prison terms for committing lewd and lascivious acts with two girls under age 14. He also received 24 concurrent 15-years-to-life terms for the rest of the lewd and lascivious acts counts. After the sentencing, it was determined that the state Board of Prison Terms required him to serve nearly 200 years in prison before becoming
eligible for parole. Johnson challenged Judge Robert Boyd’s February, 2004 sentencing, claiming he received ineffective counsel from his trial attorney, Chris Andrian, regarding how much time he would be in prison. Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau, who sentenced Johnson today, overturned the sentence in October. Chouteau ruled Andrian’s advice was erroneous because he confused the date on which Johnson would be eligible for parole. The California Parole Board has discretion to determine suitability for parole. Chouteau said that because of the way the California Parole Board computes parole release dates, Johnson would not get a release date for 187 years. In March 2003, the district attorney’s office offered Johnson a
plea agreement if he pleaded guilty to six counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under age 14 and nine counts of unlawful intercourse with a minor. Johnson also would have to admit that the crimes were committed with 15 different girls in separate locations on separate occasions. Johnson would have faced a maximum of 23 years and eight months if he accepted the
plea agreement. Johnson, through Andrian, did not accept the offer or make any counter offers. Before the trial, Andrian advised Johnson that if he accepted the offer, he likely would be sentenced to between 10 and 16 years in prison. Johnson decided to go to trial. Andrian was unavailable for comment today, but he said he was pleased after Chouteau overturned the sentencing in October. “I am happy for John Johnson. I never thought that was a fair sentence under any circumstances,” Andrian said at that time.
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