English soccer star Adam Johnson faces a “substantial prison sentence,” according to the judge who tried his case, after the ex-Sunderland winger was convicted of sex crimes against a 15-year-old girl.
The 28-year-old soccer star admitted to grooming the young girl online before they met in person, and he plead guilty to sexual activity involving a minor — in this case, kissing the teenager while the two sat in his Range Rover. He also faced two other charges, including oral sex with a minor — which he was cleared of — and a second charge he was convicted up that involved digital penetration. Johnson plead not guilty to the latter two charges.
The 12-person jury spent nine hours deliberating the charges faced by the Sunderland soccer star, and they eventually returned with a 10-2 guilty verdict after Judge Jonathan Rose said he would accept a majority verdict in this case. Following his conviction, the soccer star was released on bail, and is due to return to the courts at the end of March for his sentencing hearing. Judge Rose said he had decided to release the soccer player on bail so he could “get his affairs in order,” according to the BBC.
“The defendant must understand there is a very high probability of a significant custodial sentence. You can say goodbye to your daughter. A prison sentence will mean you will not see her for some time.”
During the three-week trial, the jury heard the story of how Johnson initially met the teenager in at the end of 2014, when she had sent him a friend request on Facebook. The girl, who was a Sunderland season ticket holder, was “infatuated” with the soccer star, and soon, the two starting talking on WhatsApp — a total of 834 messages were sent between the two in a month, before they eventually moved to talking over Snapchat, where messages can’t be recorded. Johnson’s girlfriend at the time, Stacey Flounders, was “heavily pregnant” with their first child when the soccer star began his online friendship with the teen.
On January 30, 2015, Johnson and the girl met up in his Range Rover, where he’d agreed to sign some soccer jerseys for her. The girl told the courts that during their meeting, Johnson had kissed her, and put his hands down her pants, and that she had performed oral sex on the soccer star. Johnson admitted to the “passionate kiss,” reports the Daily Mail, but denied that the kiss went any further.
Following the conviction, the young girl made a statement about the soccer star, stating that the last year, during the pre-trial preparations, had been “the hardest year of my life.”
“I’ve had to face so much abuse after he claimed his innocence. I was made out to be a liar, if anything, I held things back because I didn’t want all of this to come out. What happened in his car has turned my life upside down. “
After pleading guilty to charges on grooming and kissing the girl, the soccer star was fired from Sunderland on February 11, but many are wondering why Johnson continued to play for the soccer team for months after he initially admitted to grooming the girl in a police interview. When the conviction was handed out, the club made an official statement, refuting any allegations that they had known Johnson would plead guilty to any of the charges.
“Had the club known that Mr Johnson intended to plead guilty to any of these charges, then his employment would have been terminated immediately. Indeed, upon learning of the guilty plea on February 11 2016, the club acted quickly and decisively in terminating Adam Johnson’s contract without notice.”
For the time being, at least until his sentencing hearing in two to three weeks, the convicted soccer star is on a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew set by Judge Rose, who also told Johnson that he would be “well advised to stay away from social media.”
[Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images]