RACINE — After more than 18 months in a virtual holding pattern, lawyers needed another 9 minutes on Thursday to set the date for Curt Johnson to go to trial for allegedly sexually assaulting his stepdaughter.
Curt Johnson, an heir to the Johnson family household products fortune, is accused of molesting his teenage stepdaughter. During a status conference on Thursday in Racine, the three lawyers in the case — two defense attorneys and one prosecutor — sat down to hammer out just when Johnson will stand trial. The potentially weeklong trial is set to begin Jan. 6.
Initially on Thursday, defense attorney Michael Hart asked to delay picking the trial date until after Aug. 1, when the criminal case officially transfers back into Racine County’s hands.
In asking for that delay, Hart said “we’re still reviewing, assessing to determine how we are going to respond, if at all” to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The justices ruled July 3 that Johnson’s stepdaughter can testify without first having to release her medical records.
The teen and her mother, who live out of state, have refused to waive her privacy rights, staunchly refusing to release her medical records. Johnson’s defense attorneys had sought the ability to force the release of his stepdaughter’s confidential medical records, so that Racine County Circuit Court Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz could conduct a private review of those files.
Gasiorkiewicz said he would be “happy to review” other matters at subsequent hearings, “but the purpose of today’s date, really, was to establish a trial date.”
The lawyers then took out their calendars, trying to select a time when all three were not on vacation, in previously scheduled homicide trials or attending work-required conferences.
“I’m going to have to extradite (some witnesses) from North Carolina (and) get records from Arizona,” Racine County Assistant District Attorney Robert Repischak said, asking that no trial be set for at least 45 to 60 days.
Gasiorkiewicz set another status conference for Aug. 13.
Racine County prosecutors charged Johnson, of Wind Point, in March 2011 after his then-15-year-old stepdaughter accused him of sexually assaulting her for three years, starting when she was 12, according to court records. Johnson reportedly told his therapist in Arizona that he inappropriately touched his “daughter,” according to lawyers in the case.
The appeals Gasiorkiewicz ruled in the fall of 2011 that Johnson’s attorneys could seek the stepdaughter’s medical records, but he would review them privately, which judges are permitted to do. Gasiorkiewicz then would have determined whether those records contained any information potentially relevant to the criminal case.
Gasiorkiewicz said he would have revealed that information to lawyers on both sides. But that decision was appealed.
A Court of Appeals ruling in April 2012 stated that Johnson’s stepdaughter shall not testify in court in Racine County prosecutors’ criminal case unless she first agrees to release her medical records.
The state Department of Justice on May 17, 2012, petitioned the state Supreme Court to review the appellate court ruling in the case. Both sides argued before the state’s highest court on Feb. 25.
The Supreme Court released its decision on July 3.