Man receives max sentence for child enticement

Steve Garrison

AZTEC — A 43-year-old man convicted of multiple child sex offenses in March was sentenced this morning to 17 years in prison.

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.

Michael Lee Johnson was arrested on April 14, 2015, on allegations he sent sexual images to a 14-year-old girl and attempted to meet her for sex.

The girl was reported as a runaway and was intercepted by a deputy from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office before she was able to meet with Johnson, according to detectives.

Sheriff's office detective Robert Tallman said at Johnson's sentencing the man "groomed" the girl for several months before asking her to meet for sex.

At the same time he was communicating with the girl, Johnson, a convicted sex offender, was communicating through social media with several other underage girls on the Navajo reservation, according to Tallman.

He also was communicating with a sheriff's office detective who was pretending to be an underage girl as part of a sex sting operation.

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, according to court records.

Prosecutor Ron Brambl said Johnson received sex offender treatment in Utah as part of his conviction, but it was apparent the treatment did not work.

Johnson's attorney, Scott Johnson, argued the opposite; he said Johnson was married and regularly employed for 20 years before his most recent arrest.

Johnson's sister, Betty Lee, said her brother was not a danger to the community.

"He is a child of God, and I think he can change down the road," she said.

Johnson apologized to the victim and her parents in a statement to the court.

Judge John Dean said before ordering the maximum sentence for Johnson that he had empathy for the victims and the family of the defendant.

"But people's past does matter," he said. "The safety of the public does matter."

Sheriff's office Capt. Brice Current said he was happy with Dean's decision after the hearing.

"Judge Dean has been exceptional in protecting citizens in his sentencing," Current said.

Current told the court before sentencing that Johnson made several disturbing statements to police after his arrest, including a claim that he wanted to blow up the Farmington church where Navajo police Officer Alex Yazzie's funeral was held in March 2015.

"This man scared me to death," Current told the judge. "He said he knew Alex Yazzie and said he was glad he was dead."

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