RACINE — A judge on Monday refused to reconsider a ruling allowing prosecutors to subpoena a North Carolina teen and extradite her back to Racine County to testify against her stepfather, Curt Johnson.
Johnson, an heir to the Johnson family household products fortune, is accused of molesting his teenage stepdaughter for three years while she and her mother lived here. But the case has been on hold in Racine County for two years while both sides have appealed a series of rulings in the case.
The most recent of those came this past summer, when Johnson’s defense attorneys and the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office filed cross motions with the Wisconsin Supreme Court asking the justices to reconsider decisions they issued July 3 — including that Johnson’s stepdaughter may testify against him at trial without first handing over her confidential medical records.
The stepdaughter’s attorney, Kathleen Quinn, argued in court Monday that Racine County Circuit Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz lacked the authority to allow the prosecutor to issue a subpoena to the teen, seeking her extradition back to Wisconsin to testify at her stepfather’s trial.
As a part of the process, “She is going to be mandated to appear in a circuit court in North Carolina,” Quinn told Gasiorkiewicz. “She will be required to be there.”
And she doesn’t believe Gasiorkiewicz has the authority to do that.
In a written motion Quinn filed last week, she stated the extradition hearing in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, scheduled for Nov. 22, will subject the teen “to undue and unnecessary hardship.”
According to Racine County Assistant District Attorney Robert Repischak, Gasiorkiewicz does have the authority – despite still-pending appeals.
During Monday’s hearing, Repischak said the subpoena process is an extra step he must take “to have an out-of-state, uncooperative witness appear.
“She will not get on the plane and come here. She will not voluntarily accept a subpoena, and counsel has said she will not accept a subpoena on her behalf,” Repischak explained.
Gasiorkiewicz turned to Quinn, asking if the teen will cooperate and come testify.
“No,” Quinn said.
“It’s a fairly innocuous court appearance (in North Carolina) and you’re telling me she will not cooperate with the state and will not voluntarily appear. The state has gone through appropriate channels to do this,” Gasiorkiewicz said.
Johnson, of Wind Point, was charged in March 2011 after his then-15-year-old stepdaughter accused him of sexually assaulting her, beginning when she was 12 years old, according to court records. Johnson, 58, pleaded not guilty April 13, 2011.
“That’s a huge stigma hanging over his head,” Gasiorkiewicz said during Monday’s hearing. “The court wants to do everything that it can to let that man prove his innocence or the state prove his guilt in this matter.”
He said he wouldn’t change his ruling.
After the hearing, Quinn declined to comment on whether she will appeal Gasiorkiewicz’s decision.
Johnson’s case goes back to court Dec. 6.
Curt Johnson Case Timeline
• Racine County Circuit Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz ruled in November 2011 that Curt Johnson’s attorneys could seek his stepdaughter’s medical records, and Gasiorkiewicz would review them privately. Then Gasiorkiewicz would have determined whether those records contained any information potentially relevant to the criminal case. Gasiorkiewicz said he then would have revealed that information to lawyers on both sides. But his decision was appealed.
• A Court of Appeals ruling in April 2012 stated that Johnson’s stepdaughter shall not testify in court unless she first agrees to release her medical records.
• The Wisconsin Department of Justice, on May 17, 2012, appealed, petitioning the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review this appellate court ruling.
• Both sides argued before state Supreme Court on Feb. 25, 2013.
• The justices’ decision was released July 3, 2013: she may testify without first releasing her records. Later that month, cross motions were filed regarding that decision and one dealing with jury instructions.
• Johnson’s trial currently is set to begin on Jan. 6, 2014, but his next court date is on Dec. 6. If the case isn’t remanded to Racine County by then, it won’t go to trial Jan. 6.