Brea Teacher Michelle Johnson Pleads Guilty of Sexual Crimes; Some Knew in Advance

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I have little to add to the coverage about former Brea-Olinda High School math teacher Michelle Johnson pleading guilty to “three felony counts of oral copulation of a minor and two felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse” — but what I do have to add, you won’t find elsewhere.

First, this is a pretty substantial plea bargain in terms of jail time — from a potential maximum of eight years (according to the Weekly) to ¾ of a year.  Presuming that she’s really guilty and not just avoiding a huge gamble with her life — something that people have complained about feeling they have had to do with the DA’s office — that seems pretty fair: enough jail time to provide punishment and deterrence, but protracting her isolation from society isn’t so important.

Limiting her obligation to list herself on the sex offender registry to solely the five years on which he will be on probation post-release may bother some, but I think that after five years of successfully “abstaining” from sex with underage boys we’ll be able to presume that she’s not enough of a public threat to have to undergo the pain and humiliation of being a registered sex offender for the rest of her life.

(There are too many people on the sex offender registry who don’t pose serious threats as it is — and the presence of such people makes the registry less useful.  A winnowed down list might have allowed police to identify the serial murderers of prostitutes in central county more quickly.)

So, credit where it’s due to both the Brea Police and to the OC District Attorney’s office.  While some criticism of my early position on the case (from anonymous commenters, naturally, that being the Orange County custom) has already begun, I am entirely comfortable with my having wanted to reserve judgment until a full investigation had been completed.  I believe in letting the system work — and I’m proud of that belief.

As District Attorney, I would want my investigators to work hard to assess the situation and prove the facts in such a case — without thinking that the DA’s office had an interest in anything other than accurate results. I have no bias towards charging people and obtaining plea bargains versus not charging them except for one: I want the results of such efforts to be as honest and accurate as humanly possible.  Convictions are “better” for a District Attorney than letting cases go, when it comes to public perception of the office — and I don’t care about that.  So long as the DA’s office is getting convictions of the people who deserve it, and ensuring their appropriate punishments, I’m satisfied.  Regarding convictions, it’s “quality over quantity,” always!

One other thing sort of interested me too, though — and it’s found in our own (hidden from you) site statistics.

The LA Times story linked to above came out at 6:51 p.m., well after the sentencing hearing.  KTLA Channel 5’s coverage seems to have preceded it only slightly.  Every other report seems to have come after that; most of them, like the OC Weekly‘s, appeared today. (Nothing wrong with that; they still beat us to it!)

What struck me is how quickly people began looking at our primary story on Johnson — “Disturbing Reactions to Michelle Johnson’s Arrest for Sex with a Student” — and how quickly they stopped.  In fact, it was all quick enough to make me doubt that many of the views took place before the initial KTLA broadcast.

Here’s a peek behind our scenes at our “analytics” for that article over the past month:

Michelle Johnson story stats before plea deal + face

No, our site stats don’t normally come with a background image of Michelle Johnson’s face; I added that.

The baseline for a big story like this — our #1 story of 2013, after all — is about what you see here: 2-3 hits per day almost a year later.  (Some of them are people searching for information on the topic; others are looking for something to spam.)  Yesterday, well before 6:51, I noticed that people were starting to read the Michelle Johnson story again.  (This happens sometimes, for example, when an article of ours gets republished somewhere.)  It wasn’t a huge bump, but it was a bump — from 2 to 29.  Today, that bumped up to 55 (as of an hour before publishing this, when I made this chart); in the intervening hour, it has climbed to 57.

I don’t know what time the hits on that story (which we weren’t promoting at all) came, but my sense was that about half of them preceded 4:00.  The plea deal was not announced in advance; and 7 p.m. is pretty late in the day for people to start looking for an old story.  Nor is OJB the first site to which I’d expect people to look for information — and, if it was, I’d expect a lot more than 55 hits today, when the story finally became more broadly known.

So, I guess what I’m wondering is: who was reading this OJB article before the news of the plea bargain reached the public — and why?  Most likely, we’ll never know — but someone who had the news in advance thought it was worth a look or 12 before the news hit the public.  I hope that they enjoyed the article!

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)