Sex offender pleads guilty to child enticement

Steve Garrison
Michael Lee Johnson, shown here during a court hearing in March, has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for a variety of child sex offenses.

AZTEC – A 43-year-old man pleaded guilty Thursday to multiple sex offenses in connection to the solicitation last spring of a 14-year-old Farmington girl.

Michael Lee Johnson pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child, a third-degree felony; criminal sexual communication with a child, a fourth-degree felony; and four counts of child solicitation by electronic communication device, a fourth-degree felony.

Johnson, 43, admitted as part of the plea that he exchanged sexual images with the 14-year-old girl through Facebook and asked her to meet him for unprotected sex.

Detective Robert Tallman of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office said in an interview Thursday the girl ran away from home and attempted to meet Johnson on April 14 at the Giant gas station in Waterflow.

Fortunately, the girl, who was reported missing by her parents, was intercepted by a deputy before the meeting could take place, according to Tallman. She told the deputy she intended to meet Johnson, who was arrested that same day in an unrelated sex sting conducted by the sheriff's office, according to Tallman.

Tallman said while Johnson was communicating with the victim in this case, he was also communicating with an undercover sheriff's office detective pretending to be an underage girl. Detectives arrested Johnson at the Walmart on West Main Street in Farmington in connection to those communications and were unaware that he expected to meet the victim in this case in Waterflow.

Michael Johnson walks with his attorney Ruth Baldwin after his hearing Thursday at District Court in Aztec.

Johnson also faces charges in connection to the undercover operation by the sheriff's office. He is scheduled to plead guilty to offenses in that case on April 11, according to court records, but prosecutor Ron Brambl said he could enter a plea in that case as soon as Monday.

Johnson was a registered sex offender at the time of his arrest. He was convicted in March 1992 in Utah of attempted sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl and sentenced to 36 months in prison, according to court records. Prosecutor Ron Brambl said Johnson served approximately five years in prison due to various parole violations.

Brambl told Judge John Dean at Thursday's plea hearing he will request that Johnson receive the maximum prison sentence.

Johnson's defense attorney, Ruth Baldwin, said in an interview she will request treatment for her client at his sentencing.

"It's unfortunate these things happen," she said. "It's the cycle of abuse."

A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.