FRANKFORT, Ky. – In a Dec. 14 story about the former Kentucky legislator Dan Johnson, the Associated Press erroneously reported that the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting wrote that Maranda Richmond went to the police two years ago about being sexually assaulted in 2012, and that it found no evidence that Johnson was in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
The center said Richmond reported the alleged assault in 2013, and that it found no evidence that Johnson, the role he claimed to have played on September 11.
A corrected version of the story is below:
A Kentucky legislator’s biography reads like an award-winning memoirs: He was a peacekeeper on the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, a White House chaplain to three presidents, a 9/11 first responder who gave him the last sacraments to hundreds of people at Ground Zero.
But the Republican Than Johnson’s carefully constructed history crumbled this week follows an extensively reported story of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting who are broken claims and portrayed him as a con man whose fraud propped up his ministry of a church of outcasts in Louisville, and hid a dark secret: an accusation of sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl.
Johnson denied everything, declaring his innocence from the pulpit of the church where he is the self-named “the pope.” But Wednesday evening, he was dead, his body is found on the side of a road in a remote area with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
His death shocked the Republican leaders, who are already struggling with the sexual harassment scandal that toppled the state’s first GOP of the House of representatives in almost 100 years, plus three other Republican chairmen of the committees. Most in the party had already turned his back on Johnson, to call for his resignation following the allegation of sexual assault and his history of posting racist pictures on Facebook that depicted President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama as apes.
Thursday, many people were offering messages of sympathy, while acknowledging Johnson’s complex life.
“He was passionate about others, I saw it often, yet he needed help to make themselves” GOP state Rep. Jim DuPlessis, who was sitting next to Johnson on the House floor, posted on Twitter.
Johnson’s wife, Rebecca Johnson, said her husband was the victim of a “high-tech lynching” and announced that she would run to replace him in the Legislature.
Elected in 2016, he was part of a wave of Republican victories that gave the GOP a majority in the Kentucky House for the first time in almost 100 years. But before that, he was the pastor of the Heart of Fire Church in Louisville, which prided itself on the welcome of “real people”.
“It was a biker of the church, so there was lots of leather jackets, lots of long hair and the people that if you met on the street, maybe you have a different first impression,” said David Adams, a political operative who worked with Johnson on his campaign.
On the church website, Johnson claimed to have healed sick people during a visit to South America in 1991, including the incredible story of the raising of a woman from the dead. The wonders are set out in a letter from David Fischer, pastor of a church in California. Fischer told the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting he did not witness the events and could not with the agency to anyone who had.
On his financial disclosure forms, he gives his only source of income for the workers compensation claim of the state of New York. He says this is of injuries that he incurred during his work as a preacher immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City. But the investigative reporting center, after seven months of detailed reporting, could find no evidence that Johnson, the role he claimed to have played that day.
In a Facebook message posted hours before his death, Johnson hinted that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with regards to what he witnessed in New York, details that he shared with his friends over the years, including the Republican state Sen. Dan Seum.
“He was struggling with that. I know that he did that. The fact that it was so awful that he was involved in praying for these people,” Seum said. “I believed him. I had no reason not to do that.”
The sexual assault accusation came from Maranda Richmond, a former member of Johnson’s church. Richmond told the reporting center, she was spending the night at Johnson’s house on New Year’s Eve 2012 when she awoke several hours after midnight to find Johnson standing over her. She said that he put his tongue in her mouth and put his hands down her pants and in her vagina. She said that she begged him to stop and eventually he did.
The Associated Press does not generally identify victims who report sexual assault, but is doing so because Richmond has gone public with her story.
Richmond public comments agree with what they told the police in 2013, according to the police documents obtained by the reporting center. The police then investigated the case, including a secretly recorded conversation between Johnson and Richmond’s father. But a detective later closed the case, saying Richmond refused to cooperate. Richmond denied that.
As a result of the centre of the reporting, the Louisville Metro Police Department re-opened its investigation.
Johnson held a press conference Tuesday in his church, with power denies the allegations with his wife by his side. He said that he would not resign, calling the allegations part of a strategy to attack conservative Republicans nationwide. He saved his criticism of the media, said he did not “want to blast this girl. I feel pity for her. I am very sad she is in this dark place in her life.”
At the end of the press conference, a reporter asked if he had ever raised someone from the dead. Johnson stopped, turned to the reporter and said: “God has,” for the walk of the pulpit for the last time.