Plea agreement entered in abuse casePaula Johnson of Killdeer, who is charged with felony abuse or neglect of a child, has entered into a plea agreement, which was discussed at a pretrial conference on Tuesday. If a judge rules in favor of the agreement, Johnson’s charges will be amended to contributing to the deprivation of a minor, a misdemeanor, said Ross Sundeen, Dunn County State’s attorney.
By: Ashley Martin, The Dickinson Press
Paula Johnson of Killdeer, who is charged with felony abuse or neglect of a child, has entered into a plea agreement, which was discussed at a pretrial conference on Tuesday. If a judge rules in favor of the agreement, Johnson’s charges will be amended to contributing to the deprivation of a minor, a misdemeanor, said Ross Sundeen, Dunn County State’s attorney.
Johnson was arrested for allegedly allowing 41-year-old Kevin Sells to remain in her home and have unsupervised contact with her daughter, who was 14 years old at the time, after she was aware Sells and her daughter had sexual contact, according to a Dunn County criminal complaint.
Sells was reportedly living with Johnson at the time.
“When Mrs. Johnson first became aware of it, it’s my understanding that she didn’t ask Mr. Sells to remove himself from her home, nor did she remove the minor from her home,” Sundeen said at the hearing.
Johnson also allowed her daughter to continue to associate with Sells after the sexual contact occurred, according to the complaint.
“Ultimately, Mrs. Johnson became aware that she needed to do something … and the child is now living with the father,” Sundeen said.
The possibility of the teen having further contact with Sells has been removed, since Johnson now has restricted visitation with her daughter, Sundeen added.
“The child seems to be in a more responsible home at the present time,” Sundeen said.
Sells was also arrested and is charged with gross sexual imposition. He pleaded not guilty in November and is awaiting further court proceedings.
District Judge H. Patrick Weir wanted Sundeen and Ashley Holmes, Johnson’s attorney, to provide their reasoning for wanting to lower the charges before ruling on the matter, he said.
“As far as the negotiated agreement, from my standpoint, I have conferred with law enforcement and I have conferred with the family of the minor child,” Sundeen said. “And in large part, based upon the wishes of the family, I agreed to the negotiated agreement that is before the court.”
Family input and a lack of criminal history, among other circumstances, led to the possibility of her charges being lowered, Sundeen said after the hearing.
“There were special circumstances limiting her ability to understand the consequences of her actions,” Sundeen said.
Holmes agreed the plea agreement was fair.
“I’ve had two visits with her in person and with both visits she was very upset and remorseful about what had happened to her child,” Holmes said. “This woman is vulnerable and she was most likely taken advantage of.”
The plea agreement that has been negotiated would have Johnson plead guilty to the amended charge. Her jail time would then be suspended as long as she has no criminal convictions for two years, according to court records. Johnson was not present at the pretrial conference.
Johnson would also reportedly have to submit to a psychological evaluation and would not be able to have contact with Sells.
Weir will either sign the plea agreement to finalize it, or a sentencing will be scheduled to rule on the matter, Holmes said.