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Sentencing of ex-North drama coach postponed | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing


JENNINGS COUNTY — Sentencing was postponed Friday for a former Columbus North High School employee who pleaded guilty after he was accused of trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a person he believed was a 14-year-old boy.

John W. Johnson, 53, agreed last month to plead guilty to Level 5 felony child solicitation. However, a guilty plea and sentencing hearing in Jennings Circuit Court was continued Friday morning after parties appeared before Judge Murielle Bright, online court records say. Johnson’s sentencing was rescheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 17.

Johnson, who had been employed as auditorium director and a drama coach and was terminated after his arrest, was initially charged with a Level 4 felony count of child solicitation. The court ordered a presentencing report after Johnson and prosecutors agreed to his plea deal.

Johnson was charged last November after he was arrested by officers with the Jennings County Sheriff’s Office. His arrest stemmed from a Predator Catchers Indianapolis (PCI) sting operation. PCI president Eric Schmutte set up a fictitious profile on a dating app posing as a 14-year-old boy who had been communicating with a man using the name Joe.

Court documents say Schmutte, posing as a minor, arranged to meet Joe at the North Vernon Walmart Supercenter to go somewhere for a sexual encounter. Video of the encounter where Schmutte met and confronted Johnson was livestreamed and officers who had been informed of the situation arrested Johnson near the store’s entrance as he left.

The charging information against Johnson was amended to reduce the charge from a Level 4 felony to a Level 5 felony count, which is punishable by one to six years in prison. However, courts have discretion at sentencing to forgo time behind bars and impose conditions such as work release, home detention or probation.

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