This afternoon in federal court, Judge Ted Stewart sentenced Ryan Gregory Johnson for child-porn manufacturing. Among those who wrote to support Johnson was Utah's first lady, Jeanette Herbert.
Johnson's defense attorney, Susanne Gustin, disclosed the first lady's interest in the case at Johnson's sentencing. She told the court she had never before received a letter from "the first lady of the state of Utah speaking on the behalf" of a client.
U.S. Attorney Carol Dain detailed how Johnson pretended to be a 15-year-old named Chelsea, who lived in Wyoming. Through his Internet persona, Johnson pursued male minors and coerced them into taking sexually explicit photographs of themselves, going so far as to threaten them with exposure to their families if they hesitated to comply with "Chelsea"'s demands.
The FBI found 30 folders on Johnson's computer with male names, Dain continued, noting he had gone after numerous young men ages 12 to 18 in his community. Johnson had a 20-year history of "offending with virtually no consequences. It's clearly not who the defendant wants to be, but it is what he is."
Dain said Johnson had persuaded one of his victims to write to the court, claiming he took partial responsibility for Johnson's abuse of him.
"Dear God!" said an angry relative of a victim.
Many of Johnson's immediate family attended court to support him, as Gustin described how he had been victimized as a child by an uncle. "He made a horrible, horrible decision, but that doesn't define entirely who he is," the attorney told the court.
But relatives of Johnson's victims could not hold back their wrath. One father, his finger shaking as he pointed at Johnson, said his son would never become a perpetrator as a result of Johnson's abuse, an argument Gustin had made on her client's behalf. "There's too many of [sexual predators] in our society, it's too easy for them," he added.
While a grandmother pleaded with the judge to "end this nightmare, please sentence Mr. Johnson to prison, he's a very dangerous man, he needs help," a mother revealed that two of her sons had been victimized by another sexual predator, resulting in them "feeling dirty, they don't trust people," using drugs and feeling suicidal. "Now it's my youngest son I have to watch go through this because a friend of mine is a pedophile."
he took full responsibility for his crimes, then told Judge Stewart,
"I'm not a monster. Yes, I made a mistake," but, he added, "firmly
believe everybody deserves a second chance."
Judge Stewart sentenced Johnson to 300 months in federal prison, to run concurrent with a 0-to-5-years he's already serving in the state system.
City Weekly attempted to reach Jeanette Herbert for comment through the governor's public information officer, but no immediate response was returned.