Former high school track coach gets probation in sexual abuse case

News-DemocratJanuary 3, 2014 

Former East St. Louis Senior High School assistant track coach Earlest A. Johnson, 35, of East St. Louis was sentenced to two years probation for attempted criminal sexual abuse of a teen boy.

As part of plea negotiations, prosecutors dismissed two felony charges of criminal sexual abuse against Johnson, and he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge.

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said Johnson's alleged confession was obtained by former East St. Louis police detective Orlando Ward, which impacted the prosecution in this case. Ward is currently awaiting sentencing on federal drug charges.

"It was most important to the victim and victim's family to at least get some sex offense conviction and require the defendant to register as a sex offender, which we were able to pull off," Kelly said.

Johnson was charged in February 2012 and sentenced last month. His probation runs through Dec. 9, 2015, and he is registered as a sex offender in Illinois.

Johnson's defense attorney Richard Roustio could not be reached for comment.

Johnson was an assistant boys track coach at East St. Louis Senior High School during the 2010-11 season, but was not rehired by East St. Louis School District 189 the following school year.

District 189 released the following statement: "Mr. Johnson has not worked for District 189 for several years. However, the district is aware of his arrest, and we have been interested in the outcome of the pending charges because he worked with our students at one time...The requirement that Mr. Johnson register as a sex offender will prevent him from ever working in another public school. However, it is unfortunate if the status of the arresting officer impacted the appropriate disposition of his case."

Johnson also cut, braided and twisted hair for boys and girls in his home, which was how he gained access to the 15-year-old boy, according to police.

Police believe Johnson was able to get the boy at his home while he was cutting his hair or was just hanging out at Johnson's home. Johnson lived alone. The incident between Johnson, and the boy reportedly occurred in the basement of Johnson's home.

The victim alleged the suspect first sexually abused him in the summer of 2011.

In another court case involving a metro-east school district in 2011, former Belleville West High School teacher Ryan D. Endsley, 39, of Shiloh received 30 months probation after pleading guilty to criminal sexual abuse, a class 4 felony, last year. He was charged in connection with allegations of "inappropriate contact" with a 17-year-old female student in 2011.

"The victim in the Ryan Endsley case did not wish to see the defendant sentenced to prison," Kelly said, "and since the testimony of the victim was key in that case we deferred to her as we often do in these sensitive but serious cases."

Endsley no longer works for Belleville School District 201. His probation runs through July 3, 2015, and he is registered as a sex offender in Illinois.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com. BND reporter P. Smith contributed to this story.