Corrections officer pleads not guilty to public indecency

By jeanne starmack


A corrections sergeant from the Ohio State Penitentiary charged with exposing himself to a child has pleaded innocent to public indecency.

Michael Johns, 50, of Leffingwell Road, Canfield Township, appeared Wednesday night in Mahoning County Area Court here for his arraignment.

He was given an own- recognizance bond of $2,500, and his case is set for a pretrial at 5:30 p.m. March 6.

According to a Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office report, the victim, a 12-year- old girl, was sleeping over with Johns’ daughter at his house Jan. 20.

The victim’s mother told The Vindicator the girls were friends from school and that Johns was a longtime family friend.

The report indicates the two girls and Johns were sitting on the couch watching television when the victim looked over at him and saw that he had exposed his private parts and was moving his hands up and down, staring blankly at the victim.

The report goes on to say the victim told her friend later in her friend’s bedroom what had happened.

On a trip to a store to get food, Johns asked the victim if what he’d done “was OK with her,” the report says.

The friend told the victim later that she’d confronted her father, who told him not to tell anyone, saying he could be divorced, jobless or he might even kill himself, the report says.

The victim’s mother said her daughter told her about what happened after she picked her up from the sleepover.

Lynn Bilal, an advocate from Compass Family and Community Services, said victims are often told not to tell anyone what happened. Bilal accompanied family members to Johns’ arraignment.

“It’s hard for a 12-year-old to take on all that,” she said.

Bilal said victims in similar situations can call Compass at 330-782-3936. She said police also should be called.

The victim’s mother said her daughter is doing well.

They are urging any other children who believe they were victimized to come forward.

Johns has been with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction since December 1992. He was placed on paid administrative leave Monday.

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