A Washington Court House man behind a string of vehicle break-ins waffled in court Monday before making his plea on two criminal cases.
Donald E. Johnson, 42, appeared in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas with his defense attorney Kathryn Hapner. Johnson and his two children, Chelsea, 22, and Andrew, 23, were arrested New Year’s Eve at the Jeffersonville Baymont Inn and charged with multiple counts of theft and receiving stolen property. Authorities said stolen bank cards were located in the hotel room Johnson was staying in with his two children.
Clinton County Assistant Prosecutor Andrew McCoy represented the state in the case due to a potential conflict of interest for Fayette County Prosecutor Jess Weade. Court records show that a family member of Weade’s was a victim in one of the vehicle break-ins reportedly committed by Johnson’s son, Andrew.
During Monday’s hearing, McCoy said that Johnson, seated at the defense table in jail shackles and an orange-and-white-striped suit, had agreed to enter two separate guilty pleas on 11 charges in the two cases.
McCoy read the allegations aloud for the court. The case facts detailed nearly a dozen vehicle break-ins and thefts across Fayette County that began in November and continued through December of 2017. The family was arrested New Year’s Eve.
The break-ins and thefts occurred at private residences, a restaurant, an apartment complex, and a factory, records show. Bank cards stolen from multiple vehicles were used to withdraw money at ATMs or make purchases at stores. Stolen checks were cashed, reports said.
Acting Judge David Bender presided over the hearing and asked Johnson if he was prepared to enter a guilty plea on the facts presented in the cases.
Johnson hesitated, said no, and slumped forward in his chair.
Bender asked the court to check the calendar for the scheduled jury trial in the matter. As the jury trial date was discussed, Johnson interrupted to say that he changed his mind and would like to instead enter his plea.
Johnson plead guilty to eight counts of receiving stolen property, each a fifth-degree felony, two counts of theft, fifth-degree felonies, and a single charge of forgery, a fifth-degree felony.
Bender scheduled sentencing on the charges for April 9.
Johnson faces a maximum prison sentence of 11 years on the charges and a maximum fine of $27,500.
According to McCoy, Johnson’s son Andrew recently entered a plea on charges stemming from the incidents.
Cases against Johnson’s daughter, Chelsea, remain open and unresolved.
Court records show Andrew and Chelsea are both scheduled to appear in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas April 16. Andrew is scheduled for a sentencing hearing and Chelsea is scheduled for a final pretrial hearing.
Contact Ashley at (740) 313-0355 or connect on Twitter by searching Twitter.com for @ashbunton