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Former Anchorage deacon sentenced in child-pornography case

Yereth Rosen
Donald Johnson, the former deacon of Shiloh Baptist Church, was sentenced to five years in incarceration, with 33 months suspended, for possession of child pornography. Loren Holmes photo

A former Anchorage church deacon was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison, with 33 months suspended, for possessing child pornography.

Donald Johnson was arrested in January after state troopers and Anchorage police traced videos of sexual assaults to his home. He could serve as little as 18 months if he qualifies for good-behavior release, officials said.

Johnson’s sentence was the result of a plea agreement struck shortly before a new Department of Law policy was put into effect to limit the scope of such agreements in serious felonies, including sexual offenses. Under the new policy, announced in July, prosecutors and defendants may not negotiate sentence terms in cases involving serious violent crimes, sexual assault, sexual abuse or domestic violence. Prosecutors and defendants may continue to negotiate over charges in such cases under the new policy, but sentences are to be determined by judges

Johnson, a former deacon at Anchorage’s Shiloh Baptist Church, pleaded guilty to a single consolidated offense. He was originally charged with several felony counts of possession and distribution.

When arrested by Anchorage police on Jan. 9, he admitted to possessing images of adults assaulting children as young as 2, said Assistant Attorney General Adam Alexander. Johnson has been in jail since then, Alexander said.

Considering Johnson’s age, 62, his lack of prior offenses and his cooperation in the case, the sentence is “right around the ballpark” of what would have been imposed under the new state policy, defense attorney Philip Shanahan told Superior Court Judge Jack Smith.

The Department of Law’s new plea-bargain policy was announced after Jerry Active, a repeat offender, was arrested and charged with murdering an Anchorage couple and sexually assaulting three members of the victims’ family, ranging in age from 2 to 90. 

Contact Yereth Rosen at yereth(at)alaskadispatch.com