Chesterton Tribune



Public defender appointed to represent Don Johnson; trial not yet rescheduled

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The trial of Don Johnson--originally set for Nov. 7 but canceled following the withdrawals of his attorneys--has not yet been re-scheduled.

But a public defender has been appointed to represent Johnson, the former Duneland real estate broker charged with 19 felonies, most of them in connection with the sale of securities.

At a status conference on Nov. 27, Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford referred the matter of Johnson’s legal representation to the Public Defenders Office. Or as court records put it, “Indigent Counsel Appointed at County Expense.”

Johnson is next due in court on Jan. 22, 2018, for another status conference.

Johnson was charged on March14 2014, with seven counts of selling unregistered securities; seven of selling securities without himself being registered to do so; and three of securities fraud.

On March 27, 2014, two additional felony counts were filed against him: one of forgery, the other of theft.

The cancellation of the Nov. 7 trial date is only one of many delays in the adjudication of the case, since it was originally brought nearly four years ago. Five months were consumed last year by Johnson’s motion to dismiss eight of the charges against him on the ground that the statute of limitations had expired. Johnson’s attorneys filed that motion in July 2016 and Bradford denied it in August. The defense responded by seeking Bradford’s approval to file an interlocutory appeal before the Indiana Court of Appeals. Two months later, in December 2016, the appellate court denied Johnson’s appeal without comment.

But the case is also full of postponements. On eight separate occasions--“By Request”--Bradford re-scheduled status conferences, sometimes by a matter of months. On four occasions he re-scheduled pre-trial conferences, also by request. And on seven occasions he ordered a continuance.

The Case

In addition to the 14 counts of alleged securities and broker-dealer registration violations, Johnson is charged with three counts of securities fraud, accusing him of employing a scheme to defraud, making an untrue statement of material fact, or otherwise engaging in deceitful business practices.

Johnson is accused as well of forging a dead woman’s signature on an insurance check and then stealing the check.

Among other things, the probable cause affidavit filed by the Chesterton Police Department alleges that one of Johnson’s clients was a woman who belonged to his church, to whom he promised a 30-percent return on a $60,000 investment--in a real estate project--from the woman’s National Steel retirement account. Five years after signing the promissory note, Johnson told the woman that a downturn in the economy had halted work on the project, yet the woman kept receiving statements from a trust company showing a balance of $59,000 or more and didn’t realize that she’d lost all of her money until she talked to her son about the situation, the affidavit states.

Revocation of Johnson’s Broker’s License

Johnson was for years a familiar face in the Duneland real estate market. Then, in December 2010, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office brought a 33-count administrative complaint against him alleging numerous improprieties. In June 2012, Johnson and the Indiana Real Estate Commission (IREC) reached a negotiated settlement under which the IREC suspended his broker’s license for three years and ordered him to pay $15,000 in consumer restitution.

But when Johnson failed to pay the first $5,000 installment of that restitution, the IREC revoked his license permanently.

The IREC had previously concluded the following about Johnson’s business practices:

* That he “engaged in material deception” by providing advice on bankruptcy filings without a license to practice law.

* That he had “become unfit to practice due to failure to keep abreast of current theory” as well as to “professional incompetence.”

* That Johnson failed to notify a client whose house he said he would purchase that the property was subsequently sold at a sheriff’s sale, but he continued to collect rental payment totaling $1,800 from the tenants of the property while at the same time failing to pay the mortgage on the property.

The Jury Trial

Whenever the case does eventually go to trial, an attorney from the Securities Division of the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office will be assisting the prosecution.



Posted 12/7/2017




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