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Supreme Court to review Curt Johnson appeal
Johnson case

Supreme Court to review Curt Johnson appeal

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Curt Johnson motion hearing

Curt Johnson listens as his attorney Mark Richards questions Racine County Sheriff's investigator Keith Dobesh at his motion hearing in his sexual abuse case, Monday April 23, 2012. / Mark Hertzberg for The Journal Times

RACINE — Almost six months after Wisconsin’s top prosecutors filed an appeal with the state’s highest court, members of the Supreme Court have decided to take up this appeal in the high-profile child sexual assault case against an heir to the Johnson family household products fortune. 

Curt Johnson, 57, is charged with repeated sexual assault of the same child for allegedly molesting his teenage stepdaughter. Johnson, of Wind Point, is the former chairman of Diversey Inc. and a son of the late SC Johnson chairman, Sam Johnson.

Racine County prosecutors charged Curt Johnson in March 2011 after his then-15-year-old stepdaughter accused him of sexually assaulting her.

Court records show that five of the seven Wisconsin Supreme Court justices decided Wednesday, Nov. 14 to take up the appeal, which involves whether the alleged victim may testify in court without first agreeing to release her medical records for review. A copy of their order, sent by mail, was received at the Racine County Courthouse on Monday, records show.

Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesman Steve Means said the justices’ decision occurred within the standard time frame, and oral arguments in the case could occur in spring.

“Then after that, you never know how long a decision could take. I would hope we would see a decision by summer, early fall,” Means said.

Justices David Prosser Jr. and Michael Gableman did not participate in the order granting review.

A briefing currently is due to the justices by Dec. 14 from the state Department of Justice. Defense lawyers then would have 20 days to file a response, court records show. Assistant attorneys general then would have 10 days in which to file a reply, according to the order.

Racine County Circuit Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz in October scheduled a Dec. 14 review of the case — long before the justices decided last week to take up the appeal.

One of Johnson’s defense attorneys, Mark Richards, declined comment Tuesday. Racine County District Attorney Rick Chiapete said he couldn’t comment on the appeal because it is in the Department of Justice’s hands.

Johnson’s Racine County criminal case remains on hold because of this appeal.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice on May 17 petitioned the state Supreme Court to review an appellate court ruling in the case, citing multiple constitutional issues involved with it. It stemmed from a Court of Appeals ruling in April that Johnson’s stepdaughter shall not testify in court unless she first agrees to release her medical records.

These medical records were requested months ago by defense attorneys.

Last fall, Gasiorkiewicz ruled that Johnson’s attorneys could seek those records, but that Gasiorkiewicz would review them privately in his chambers — providing pertinent information only to Johnson’s attorneys and prosecutors. This is a common legal procedure called an “in camera” review.

But the teen and her mother, who currently live out of state, have refused to release those medical records.

The girl alleged that Johnson sexually assaulted her more than a dozen times between 2007 and 2010, according to court records.

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