The jury trial of
former Duneland realtor Don Johnson, set to begin on Tuesday, Nov. 7, has
Court Judge Roger Bradford vacated the Nov. 7 trial date following the
withdrawal from the case of Johnson’s two attorneys, Gary Germann and James
Koch, according to court documents.
originally charged on March 14, 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 Johnson: one of forgery, the
other of theft.
Attorney Brian Gensel told the Chesterton Tribune that Johnson has
not yet obtained new representation and that Bradford has not yet
re-scheduled the trial, although a status conference has been set for 9 a.m.
Monday, Nov. 27.
The cancellation of
the Nov. 7 trial date is only one of many delays in the adjudication of the
case since it was 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. Bradford granted that motion in
October. Two months later, however, in December, the appellate court denied
Johnson’s appeal without comment.
But the case
history 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.
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.
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 payments 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.