The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office has dropped a molestation case that was pending against a former ReNEW SciTech Academy educator for almost three years.
The case dragged on because of delays with discovery, scheduling conflicts and prosecutors’ difficulty in getting witnesses to testify. In the meantime, Ronald Johnson, 56, was out on bail.
“The victim in this case is not willing to testify,” DA spokesman Ken Daley wrote in an email to The Lens last week.
The incident, which according to a police report occurred in January 2015, took place at the school on Jackson Avenue where Johnson worked. The alleged victim, then a 12-year-old boy, was a student there.
Johnson worked as an interventionist, giving students extra help in subjects they were struggling with.
He was accused of going to the boys restroom and telling the boy to come to his room when the boy was finished, according to court records. The boy obliged. Johnson said it was his birthday and asked the boy for a hug, grabbed his genitals and licked his neck, according to court documents.
Johnson was arrested two months later, in March 2015, and charged with sexual battery and indecent behavior with a juvenile. He pled not guilty.
Over the next three years, the case was delayed 19 times at the request of the defense and the prosecutor. Once, the trial was scheduled on Election Day — a court holiday.
On Oct. 18, Criminal Court Judge Ben Willard asked the prosecutor if the victim was in court. He wasn’t. The judge granted a joint request to reset the trial for Nov. 7.
That day, the victim was in court. But the state wasn’t able to get another witness, a prosecutor told the judge.
“Let the record show the state was not ready to proceed,” Willard said.
He reset the trial to January. Johnson’s public defender filed a motion to “test the competency of the child complaints.”
The judge was to rule on that motion on Jan. 16, the day of the trial. That day, the DA’s office decided to drop the case.
It could bring the charges again if the victim decides to testify, Daley said.
Johnson’s public defender did not return a call seeking comment.
Johnson stopped working at SciTech the day after the incident reportedly occurred. The state Department of Education has no record of him working in a school since then, spokeswoman Sydni Dunn told The Lens.