RACINE — A lawsuit filed against Curt Johnson two years ago by a former Racine County teen — and then-friend of the family — alleging he molested her has apparently been dismissed following a settlement.
According to a document obtained by The Journal Times last week, the lawsuit was dismissed on March 16 before going to trial.
Online court records describe the action as “settlement/stipulation to dismiss — before trial.”
The Journal Times was unable to get comments about the dismissal from attorneys for the plaintiff or defendant Curt Johnson, and court records did not indicate what the settlement was or if any money was involved.
Johnson, 61, is the former chairman of Diversey Inc. and a son of the late SC Johnson chairman Sam Johnson. When the lawsuit was filed it stated Johnson lived in Wind Point. Online court records for a joint divorce petition filed in April indicate that Johnson, an heir to the Johnson family household products fortune, now lives in Caledonia.
Filed on July 15, 2014, the lawsuit accused Johnson of molesting the plaintiff — his stepdaughter’s childhood friend — on multiple occasions between March 2007 and July 2009.
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The incidents allegedly occurred while the plaintiff — then about 12 to 13 years old — was on vacation with the Johnson family in Mexico and in the Bahamas, as well as in Johnson’s Wind Point home.
The lawsuit alleged the teen had suffered severe psychological and emotional distress as a result of the abuse, and sought an unspecified amount in monetary damages.
“(Johnson) would come in and fondle them while they were sleeping. Her and (Johnson’s stepdaughter),” according to a comment the plaintiff’s attorney, Stephen Estey of the San Diego-based Estey & Bomberger, made to The Journal Times in September 2014.
Estey said the then-teen — who would be about 20 or 21 years old now — was “very close” friends with Johnson’s stepdaughter, whom the billionaire was convicted of molesting on June 6, 2014, following a plea agreement.
Speaking to The Journal Times for the same September 2014 story, Johnson’s criminal defense attorney, Mark Richards, denied the accusations, noting that such types of “spurious allegations” were “not uncommon in cases involving high-net-worth individuals.”
“(The teen) is a troubled person with an admitted history of stealing from Mr. Johnson and his family,” he claimed of the stepdaughter's friend. “We have been aware of (the girl’s) claims since March 2011 when they were made, reviewed by the Racine County District Attorney’s Office and rejected,” Richards said. “These claims are unequivocally and demonstratively false. We intend to vigorously defend him.”
Racine County prosecutors charged Johnson in March 2011 with repeated sexual assault of a child — a felony punishable by up to 40 years in prison — after allegations surfaced that Johnson molested his stepdaughter.
The case experienced a number of delays as it was appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Johnson eventually pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges — fourth-degree sexual assault of a child and disorderly conduct — in connection with the case. He was sentenced to four months in jail and was also ordered to pay a $6,000 fine.