WINCHESTER — Seventeen-year-old Deandre William Johnson on Friday smiled, reclined in a chair and rocked slowly side to side.
It was the typical body language of a teenager listening to music or playing a video game. But there was nothing to enjoy or smile about.
The chair was in Frederick County Circuit Court, and Johnson was about to enter an Alford plea — in which the defendant doesn’t admit guilt but concedes the prosecution has enough evidence to convict him — to the forcible sodomy of a 12-year-old boy. As part of the agreement, abduction and assault and battery charges were dropped.
Johnson will serve up to four years at the Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in Richmond, where he will receive sex offender treatment he wouldn’t be eligible for at an adult prison, according to Louis Campola, the assistant commonwealth’s attorney who prosecuted Johnson. Upon release, Johnson will be on supervised probation for 10 years and faces up to 15 years in an adult prison if he violates his probation. The agreement also requires him to register as a violent sex offender for life and have no contact with the victim.
Court records said Johnson has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and conduct disorder, defined as aggressive and sometimes violent adolescent behavior. Despite his mental condition and his age, prosecutors charged him as an adult due to the severity of the crime. It occurred on Dec. 7 at Timber Ridge School, a private facility in Frederick County for emotionally disturbed and behaviorally disordered males between the ages of 10 and 21.
The victim told police that while staff weren’t looking, Johnson, then 16, entered his room, placed him in a headlock and forced him to peform oral sex, according to court documents. The boy said Johnson tried it again on Dec. 10 and when he screamed for help, Johnson punched him in the head and threatened him before running away. Campola told Judge Alexander R. Iden that in the first attack, Johnson threatened to cut the boy with a toothbrush with a blade attached to it if he called for help.
Campola said the agreement spares the victim the ordeal of having to testify at trial about being assaulted. He said the boy’s mother said her son was reluctant to testify, and she approved of the agreement. Johnson’s mother must also cooperate with probation officials as part of the agreement.
Johnson grew up in Martinsburg, W.Va., one of the poorest states in the nation with chronically underfunded schools. He told Iden the last grade he completed was eighth grade. “They just passed me,” he told Iden about the last school he attended.
Prior to his sentencing, Johnson was in the custody of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, according to the documents. He had been staying at the Board of Child Care in Martinsburg, a non-secure facility, but was sent to Timber Ridge due to “multiple acts of aggressive behaviors.”
Campola told Iden that Johnson’s age was considered in the agreement. He said the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional also factored into the sentencing recommendation.
However, after hearing that Johnson faced a maximum of four years imprisonment, Iden rejected the plea agreement without explaining why. The case was then heard in another courtroom by Judge Dennis Lee Hupp, who approved the agreement.