Rockwood man pleads no contest to charges stemming from sexual assault last April

John Johnson stands in front of Superior Justice Kevin Stitham during his initial appearance in Piscataquis County Superior Court on Monday, April 30, 2012. Johnson was formally charged with gross sexual assault and aggravated assault, both class A crimes.
John Johnson stands in front of Superior Justice Kevin Stitham during his initial appearance in Piscataquis County Superior Court on Monday, April 30, 2012. Johnson was formally charged with gross sexual assault and aggravated assault, both class A crimes.
Posted March 20, 2013, at 7:35 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A Rockwood man was found guilty last week of crimes connected to the brutal assault of a woman in Greenville.

John “Cheeto” Johnson, 42, pleaded no contest to gross sexual assault, a Class A charge, and Class B aggravated assault in Piscataquis County Superior Court on March 11. He was found guilty by Justice William Anderson.

This was a serious case,” Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said on Wednesday. “For the victim, it was very scary. She at one point thought her life was in danger. This was a serious attack. He deserves a serious sentence.”

Sentencing for Johnson has not yet been scheduled, but Almy said he will be “asking for a lengthy sentence.”

On the evening of April 25, 2012, the 58-year-old victim was watching a playoff hockey game at West Cove Tavern in Greenville Junction, according to the affidavit of Greenville Police Chief Jeffrey Pomerleau.

While she was leaving, she said, Johnson asked her to give him a ride home. She said she barely knew Johnson but obliged.

She told police that she stopped at a local garage where Johnson had been staying in a trailer out back. As she was about to leave, she said Johnson told her, “You’re not going anywhere.”

At that point, Johnson reportedly grabbed the woman by the hair and throat and dragged her from the car. He was punching and choking her, according to her statement in the affidavit. He hit her face against the side of the car, said the woman. She said he exposed himself and tried to force her head into his lap, but she was able to fend him off.

Johnson then dragged her into the unlit trailer, where he told her to take her pants off. She refused, she said, and Johnson threatened to kill her.

During the struggle, the woman lost her glasses and couldn’t see. She said she eventually was able to escape and run toward a light.

The light was a flashlight held by Jayson Lagasse, who works at the garage. The woman said she knew Lagasse and the two ran together down the road while Lagasse called police. The two hid in the woods when she saw her vehicle approaching.

The vehicle stopped and the driver fled without closing the door.

Greenville police Officer David Smiley found the victim and Lagasse on Steam Plant Road around 11:30 p.m.

Smiley said in an affidavit that the victim was “covered with blood and holding a rag over her bare torso, begging for help.”

Smiley rushed the woman to Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville for treatment.

According to the affidavit, Tommy White, 27, an acquaintance of Johnson’s, said Johnson called him on his cellphone and told him that “he did something bad [and was] not sure what he did, but has been in the woods for a long time and cops are looking for him.”

Johnson surrendered to the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office in Dover-Foxcroft on April 26.

Johnson has a prior conviction for assault in 2004, according to Almy. He served six months in jail.

If convicted, Johnson faces up to 30 years in prison, said Almy.

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