By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Court of Appeal has acquitted a man previously sentenced to almost a decade in prison for allegedly molesting an 11-year-old girl some five years ago.
Appellate Justices Jon Isaacs, Sir Michael Barnett and Milton Evans quashed Victor “Ninja” Johnson’s conviction and eight-year sentence for allegedly fondling the girl in June 2014.
The appellate judges said they would give their reasons for acquitting Johnson at a later date.
On July 13, 2014, Johnson was cautioned and arrested for rape, but said nothing in response. When interviewed by police two days later, however, he denied knowing the little girl and said he had no knowledge of the incident.
That same day, Inspector Frederick Taylor conducted a confrontation between Johnson and the little girl, during which the complainant, with her mother present, referred to Johnson as “Ninja” and said what she claimed took place on June 16 of that year. However, Johnson denied he ever touched or molested the little girl.
On May 17, 2016, Johnson was arraigned in the Supreme Court on one count of unlawful sexual intercourse and pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Johnson was ultimately convicted of the unlawful sexual intercourse charge, and, a year later, on June 1, 2017, was sentenced to eight years in prison. From that sentence, the court deducted the four years he had spent on remand and one year to reflect on the amount of time the trial lasted.
Thus, he was sentenced to three year’s imprisonment from June 1, 2017.
Johnson, through his attorney, Christina Galanos, appealed both his conviction and sentence, chiefly on the grounds that the trial judge erred when she permitted evidence of Johnson’s bad character to be led before the jury.
According to Ms Galanos, at one point in the trial, the arresting officer said: “While on the outside a bunch of onlookers shouted some comments at him. He in turn turned at them and said: ‘I’m gonna kill all of ya’ll when I get out!’”
Then, after the trial judge told the arresting officer he could say what the onlookers shouted at Johnson if he could hear, the officer said: “They said, ‘Get this rapist from around here!’ So he then in turn turned to them and said, ‘I ga kill all of y’all when I get out!’”
Thus, Ms Galanos asserted that none of that evidence should have been led before the jury, as most of it was “highly prejudicial” and devoid of any probative value, which essentially rendered it “simply irrelevant”.
Additionally, Ms Galanos said in a few instances, the trial judge herself elicited some of the “damaging evidence” and also mentioned some of it in her summation without giving any warning to the jury to disregard it.
Thus, Ms Galanos contended that one could not seriously contend that Johnson’s conviction was safe.