Editorials

Rep. Dan Johnson’s seamy past unveiled

Kentucky lawmaker dead in apparent suicide

Rep. Dan Johnson, a Republican state legislator in Kentucky facing sexual assault allegations, has died in an apparent suicide. Johnson was accused of of assaulting a teenage girl in 2013. Police investigated but closed the case and did not file c
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Rep. Dan Johnson, a Republican state legislator in Kentucky facing sexual assault allegations, has died in an apparent suicide. Johnson was accused of of assaulting a teenage girl in 2013. Police investigated but closed the case and did not file c

Of all Dan Johnson’s scams, the biggest he has pulled off was on the voters in the 49th House district last November.

He was pretty above-board during the campaign about his message of racism and hatred. He, for example, posted images on Facebook of President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, with ape-like faces.

But the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has, in a thoroughly reported account, revealed much more about Johnson, who calls himself “bishop” and “pope” in his role of the presiding minister at the Heart of Fire Church.

The most disturbing, and sensational, accusation KyCIR detailed was that Johnson molested a 17-year-old girl on New Year’s Eve in 2012.

Now 21, Maranda Richmond says she attended Johnson’s church and was a friend of his daughter. After a wild, boozy New Year’s Eve party — heavy drinking parties including juveniles appear to be a regular part of the “worship” at Heart of Fire — she stayed over with Johnson’s daughter only to wake up in the wee hours with Johnson kneeling over her. She says he kissed her, fondled her, forced his hands under her pants and penetrated her with his finger.

Richmond filed a police complaint but Johnson was never interviewed and the case was closed. Tuesday Johnson denied the charges and said he wouldn’t step down, despite a call from the Republican Party and others to do so.

But KyCIR uncovered much more in Johnson’s long, seamy past:

▪  In 1985, Louisville police found Johnson’s Cadillac Coupe de Ville doused with gasoline. Two people arrested at the scene said Johnson had paid them to torch it. Johnson reported it stolen the next morning but eventually admitted he’d paid to have it destroyed so he could collect insurance. Indicted on charges of arson and filing a false police report, he pleaded not guilty and completed a six-month diversion program and the charges were dropped.

▪  In 2000, Johnson’s Heart of Fire church burned in a blaze that investigators concluded was intentionally set. The back door was unlocked and a flammable liquid had been poured along a hallway. Johnson said the church had been threatened and blamed the Ku Klux Klan. The insurance company sued, raising questions about poor security and pointing out the church was deep in debt, as is common in arson cases. That case was settled and no arson charges were filed.

▪  Alcoholic Beverage Control officers have cited Johnson and the church three times for selling alcohol without a license. These sales happened at regular weekend church parties. KyCIR described them as “Bikers, booze and, occasionally, bare breasts ... a costume party featuring zombie nuns in short skirts.” In a 2009 trial Johnson, dressed in a priest’s collar and wearing a cross, claimed that the drinks were served as part of a “communion.”

Ir seems unlikely the House will expel Johnson. Gov. Matt Bevin, who has called on any public official who has settled a sexual harassment suit to resign, refused to comment on “all this nonsense,” about Johnson, saying, “let’s wait until we get all the facts.”

That means it’s likely the voters in the 49th District, who elected him with a 156-vote margin last November, will have the final say on him next fall.

Here’s hoping Johnson’s worked his last successful scam on Kentucky voters.

GOP Rep. Dan Johnson responds to allegations that he molested a 17-year-old girl in 2012.

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