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Judge chastises former Chief for failing to follow probation terms

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Saturday, July 17, 2010, at 12:05 a.m.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Former Chiefs running back Larry Johnson avoided jail but didn't escape the wrath of a judge who admonished him Friday for dropping the ball on his community service.

Johnson, 30, was supposed to work with children at the Kansas City Police Athletic League for his 40 hours of court-ordered service. But Johnson refused to play sports with the children and instead told police officials he wanted to start an art program. The program didn't draw enough students and quickly fizzled out. He got credit for nine hours of service.

Municipal Court Judge Joseph Locascio said his intention was for Johnson to play sports with the kids.

"Children who go to PAL don't go there for art class," Locascio said at the probation revocation hearing Friday. "The idea that you would draw pictures with kids who want to participate in athletics is absurd.

"If I knew you didn't want to do sports with kids, I would have assigned you to pick up trash on the highway. That's what we typically have defendants do."

Johnson's attorney, J.R. Hobbs, pointed out that Johnson provided a Thanksgiving dinner to 100 people at the PAL center, bought turkeys for an additional 100 families and bought $2,500 worth of Christmas presents for the kids.

Locascio acknowledged the gestures, but said Johnson blew an opportunity.

"For a young kid playing sports, the opportunity to have contact with an NFL player is once in a lifetime," Locascio said. "That's why I'm so disappointed here. I thought you were going to spend time with the kids, and apparently you're not capable or interested in doing that."

Locascio said he "puts people in jail every day for not doing community service." Still, Locascio chose not to put Johnson behind bars and instead reinstated his probation. Locascio said Johnson could complete his remaining community service hours with any non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., where he will play this season.

City Prosecutor Beth Murano detailed Johnson's other violations in court Friday. She said he is supposed to send a monthly form to his probation officer, but he didn't send any from January through May. Once Johnson was notified of the violation, he sent all five months at once. He then didn't send forms for June or July, Murano said.

Another condition of Johnson's probation was to complete an anger management program. His attorney said Johnson had taken a domestic violence course in Miami, where Johnson lives. But the judge questioned whether the class met the standard for anger management.

Locascio said the course wouldn't comply "if the NFL offers a one-hour program saying, 'Don't hit your wife.' "

"He has to do what he agreed to," Locascio said. "No more of this wishy-washy."

Johnson also failed to report to his probation officer that he had been stopped by police in Virginia and cited for not having a driver's license, Murano said.

During the upbraiding by Locascio, Johnson didn't make eye contact with the judge. At one point, Johnson looked at his watch.

After the 20-minute hearing, Johnson walked out of the courtroom smiling, followed by his mother and brother. He declined to talk to a Star reporter in the hallway.

Johnson's two-year probation stems from two convictions of disturbing the peace for incidents at Kansas City nightclubs in 2008. He initially was charged with two counts of assault, but the charges were amended as part of a plea agreement last year.

In the first incident, a 26-year-old woman alleged that Johnson shoved her on the side of the head inside the Grand Emporium in the 3800 block of Main Street. She told police that she and a friend were walking through the club when Johnson came toward them and said "Don't touch me" as he shoved her.

The second incident occurred at Club Blonde in the 100 block of Ward Parkway. A 24-year-old woman alleged that Johnson intentionally spit a drink in her face and made a threat against her boyfriend.

If Johnson successfully completes probation by March, the convictions will be removed from his public record. If not, he will be forced to appear before Locascio again.

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