Reece Johnson, 22, back in custody after brawling with officers

Nov 3, 2017

Meth abusing menace has skirted serious jail time for past crimes in part because of Senate Bill 91's reforms, which aimed to put low-level offenders on supervised release rather than behind bars.

Reece Johnson, 22, of Dillingham was abusive and obscene in court Friday as he faced a host of new charges that could put him behind bars for several years. The allegations about a Manokotak assault were “all hearsay,” and as to the rest of the charges, “these guys are f--- liars,” Johnson said of the troopers.

A long list of vulgarities hurled out by the convicted felon, so soon back in prison yellows, concluded with him calling trooper Gordon Young a “fa--ot.”

Superior court judge Tina Reigh was not impressed by the thuggish talk but allowed the arraignment to proceed.

Johnson was arrested Thursday, but not till after he brawled with a handful of law enforcement officers at his mother’s home in HUD. Trooper Young, DPD chief Dan Pasquariello and officer Craig Maines, plus wildlife trooper Joe Wittkop and probation officer Rex Spofford all went to pick up Johnson in connection with the Manokotak assault. Johnson was high on meth, and before he was finally handcuffed he had allegedly bit both Young and Pasquariello, smashed Pasquariello’s hand in the door, broke Young’s glasses, and punched Maines in the face.

A few hours later Pasquariello received a call from the jail. “We have an issue with one of the inmates,” the dispatcher said.

Johnson had punched the window out of his cell, Young said in a sworn affidavit.

Based on prior assault convictions, the young man racked up four felony assault charges for fighting with the officers.

He is also facing a more serious second degree assault charge from an incident on October 20 in Manokotak, which Young investigated. Johnson was in the village allegedly “selling alcohol door-to-door,” and the victim, a 26-year-old man, let Johnson and his girlfriend Josephine Decker stay at his house. There’s some confusion over what triggered the attack (either missing money or an unwanted pass at Decker, depending on whose version is believed), but the Manokotak man was choked and beaten over the head with a piece of lumber. Five days later Young still found plenty of visible wounds on the victim, and blood spattered on the walls. “The strangulation and choking came from Reece, and getting hit was done by Josephine,” he wrote.

Reece Johnson has a troubling criminal history. In the past two years alone he has shot a man and helped steal more than a dozen firearms, but a less-than-vigorous prosecution and Senate Bill 91 have allowed him to stay mostly out of jail.

In May 2016 Johnson shot Isiah Thompson in the back, but Thompson refused to testify against his buddy. Rather than take the case to trial, the state prosecutor accepted a plea on misdemeanor assault, and Johnson was released in September.

Weeks later he helped mastermind the theft of more than a dozen guns out of a Dillingham house. The last of the group of young men to face justice, Johnson was arrested in Anchorage in January, and by March took a plea on a theft charge. Prior to SB 91, Johnson would have faced up to two years in jail for that class C felony conviction. Under SB 91, however, the maximum sentence was 18 months of “suspended” jail time.

In May he broke into the Einhellig home and beat up several people. This violated his probation in the gun theft case, but under SB 91 authorities could only punish Johnson with three days in jail for that violation. (The victims in that new criminal case also refused to testify.) In August he violated his probation a second time for failing a treatment program, and under SB 91 guidelines Johnson was given the max five days back in jail. Prior to SB 91, a judge could have imposed any amount of the remaining suspended jail time for either violation.

This month lawmakers in Juneau are trying to fix some of Senate Bill 91’s leniencies, including with class C felonies and probation violations. Some, including one SB 91’s original sponsors, are calling for its full repeal.

Reece Johnson was ordered held on $30,000 cash performance bail Friday.

“F---. You might as well make it a million, I’m not getting out,” he told the judge.

dave@kdlg.org or 907.842.5281