Former Portland equestrian coach Robert L. Johnson, convicted in 2001 of molesting a teenage riding student, will be back in a Connecticut courtroom in October to face charges for a third time that he violated conditions of his probation while running a new riding school in Missouri, authorities said.
After more than a decade of legal troubles in Connecticut, Johnson, 58, moved out of state in 2013 and opened Johnsons Performance Horses, an equestrian training school in Miller, Mo.
It was there, according to an arrest warrant affidavit released Tuesday in Superior Court in Middletown, that Johnson was filmed by a parent giving riding lessons to an underage girl.
Under the terms of his probation and his inclusion on the sex offender registry, Johnson is not allowed to serve as a coach or trainer for a child younger than 17 years old, and if he is to come in contact with a female under the age of 16, the contact must be supervised by someone approved by a therapist and probation officials, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
The affidavit also states that Johnson consumed alcohol and purchased sexually explicit items — massage oils — from an adult toy shop, acts prohibited according to the conditions of his probation. Johnson’s photo and profile are posted on a sex offender registry compiled by the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office in Mt. Vernon, Mo.
A sex offender treatment progress report, written by Richard W. Jenkins, parts of which are included in the affidavit, said Jenkins had “grave concerns” about Johnson’s behavior. Jenkins, whose relationship to the case is not clear in the affidavit, wrote that officials “had several problems with Robert’s blatant disregard for the requirements of supervision.”
The report said Johnson went to horse shows without permission, drank alcohol, and was not properly supervised, according to the affidavit.
“This most recent incident in which he was filmed by a parent giving riding lessons to her underage daughter is inexcusable. He knows/knew that he was not to be around children and certainly not allowed to give them riding lessons and yet he did it anyway,” Jenkins wrote, the affidavit said.
When confronted with the allegations, Johnson told Jenkins, “I just want to live a normal life. I didn’t think I would get caught,” according to the report as it appeared in the affidavit.
Jenkins said that he did not think Johnson intended to follow the probation requirements and called him “a danger to this community,” recommending that he return to Connecticut to “deal with his failure to comply,” said a section of the report quoted in the affidavit.
Johnson was arrested last month by authorities and charged with violation of probation, his third violation, court records show. He was released from jail after posting $100,000 bail and was scheduled to appear Tuesday in Superior Court in Middletown.
However, his lawyer, Richard Cohen of Hartford, said that the case was continued to Oct. 20.
Cohen declined to comment on the latest charges. He confirmed that Johnson is “doing what he’s always been doing,” meaning teaching horse riding in Missouri.
“It’s his life,” Cohen said.
Johnson, whose family ran the former Quarry Town Stables in Portland for more than five decades, was arrested in 1999 on charges that he had fondled a 14-year-old female student. The arrest stunned the local horse community, which regarded him as an accomplished horseman in the highly competitive riding world.
According to testimony at the 2001 trial, the victim said that Johnson approached her from behind and grabbed her buttocks. She testified that Johnson touched her buttocks, put his arms around her, placed his hands up underneath her shirt and grabbed her breast. He was sentenced to six years in prison suspended after nine months served and 10 years’ probation. After his release, he found himself in trouble with the law again, this time facing probation violation charges in 2007 and 2011.
In April 2010, he lost the Portland horse farm to a man who alleged that Johnson molested him while he was a riding student in the 1980s. Johnson had to give up the farm to satisfy a $1.6 million civil judgment in the case. Later, Johnson found himself in more trouble when a judge found that he had vandalized the farm before he left it.
In the 2011 violation-of-probation case, a Connecticut judge sentenced Johnson to 63 months in prison, suspended after 21 months, a longer sentence than the one he received for molesting the teen rider years before.
At that sentencing, Judge Lisa K. Morgan said she considered the hardships Johnson had faced since his conviction: his longtime wife and business partner divorced him, he lost the family farm in the lawsuit, and he had contemplated suicide. The 21-month sentence was less than the maximum term of five years and three months that he had faced.
Morgan told Johnson at the time that he “flagrantly and deceptively violated the order of the court” when he ignored his probation officer’s order not to attend a horse show on the same days that his victim was attending.
“You do not believe that the rules that apply to the rest of society apply to you,” Morgan said to Johnson. “You are mistaken.”
In February 2013, Johnson moved to Missouri, the affidavit states, and went through the Interstate Compact transfer process for people on probation. Two months later, officials placed him on electronic monitoring after they said Johnson went to the adult toy shop and bought the massage oils, the affidavit said.
On Feb. 13, 2014, Johnson was placed into violation status after a drug test showed he tested positive for alcohol, the affidavit states.
Then in June of this year, officials learned that Johnson was training children at his school from a mother who withdrew her 12-year-old daughter from the school when she learned Johnson was a convicted sex offender, the affidavit states.