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NEW INFORMATION: Billionaire pleads guilty to sexual assault charge

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

RACINE, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin billionaire has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of having sexual contact with a teenage girl.

Fifty-nine-year-old Samuel "Curt" Johnson III of Racine was originally charged with a felony count of child sexual assault. But prosecutors sought to downgrade the charge after they say the victim and her mother refused to cooperate.

Before sentencing Friday, Johnson apologized to the victim and her mother for "the tremendous hurt I have caused."

Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz allowed the downgrade of charges. Then he sentenced Johnson to four months in jail, short of the one-year maximum. Johnson was also fined $6,000.

Johnson's family has run home-products giant SC Johnson for five generations. Johnson worked for the company decades ago but has had no formal relationship with the company in years.
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RACINE, Wis. (AP) --A Wisconsin billionaire accused of sexually assaulting a girl for several years might see his felony charge downgraded to a misdemeanor on Friday, in part because the victim refuses to cooperate, Racine County prosecutors said.

Samuel Curtis Johnson III, who goes by Curt, was due in court Friday for a plea hearing.

Johnson, 49, is charged with repeated sexual assault of a child, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. But prosecutors said their case has been stymied because the victim refused to testify or release her medical records, and they've been denied access to Johnson's counseling records, which they hoped might offer evidence they could use to proceed without the girl's help.

What evidence is left is too flimsy to continue a felony case, they said.

"Any hope of successfully prosecuting the defendant on the felony charge is virtually nonexistent," assistant district attorney Robert Repischak wrote.

Prosecutors now plan to downgrade the charges to fourth-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor with a maximum jail sentence of nine months, and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Johnson's attorney, Mark D. Richards, did not immediately respond to a message Friday. Nor did Kathleen Quinn, who represents the girl and her mother.

The girl initially told prosecutors that Johnson had inappropriate sexual contact with her 15 to 20 times, starting the summer after she finished sixth grade, according to the criminal complaint. She told investigators Johnson exposed himself, fondled her under her clothes and kissed her breasts and elsewhere.

When the girl's mother confronted Johnson he denied the allegations, the complaint said. Later the mother repeated the allegations and, after he confirmed that he wasn't being recorded, he acknowledged fondling the girl and apologized for hurting her, the complaint said.

Johnson eventually sought counseling from a clinic in Arizona. At some point there he made a comment that triggered a mandatory report of child sexual abuse, Repischak said.

Criminal charges were filed in March 2011, but the case has been slowed by legal wrangling.

Johnson's attorneys initially sought access to the girl's medical records to determine whether she reported the alleged assaults during therapy. An appeals court ruled that she couldn't testify in the case until she released her records, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the decision.

The girl and her mother refused to do so. That meant prosecutors were legally prohibited from calling the girl as a witness. The mother and girl have also fought subpoenas that would force them to return to Wisconsin from their current home in North Carolina to assist in the trial.

Repischak said Quinn told him the girl wants the case dismissed, but he declined.

Johnson is the former chairman of Sturtevant-based Diversey Inc., a company once owned by the family that founded home products giant SC Johnson. He resigned from Diversey's board in February 2011.

Racine-based SC Johnson makes household products including Pledge, Windex and Ziploc. Johnson worked there in the 1980s and early 1990s but hasn't had a formal relationship with it for years.
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RACINE, Wis. (AP) -- A Racine billionaire accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl for several years might have his felony charge downgraded to a misdemeanor.

Samuel Curtis Johnson III, who goes by Curt, is due in court Friday for a plea and sentencing hearing.

He's charged with repeated sexual assault of a child. The felony carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

But prosecutors say the victim refuses to cooperate, and Johnson's counseling records aren't being made available. So prosecutors say their only viable chance for conviction is for fourth-degree sexual assault. That's a misdemeanor charge with a maximum jail sentence of nine months.

The 49-year-old Johnson is the former chairman of Diversey Inc., a Wisconsin-based cleaning-products company owned by the same parent company as SC Johnson.


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