He got a job as a school bus driver after pleading guilty to child molestation.
In a 1997 interview with investigators, a Minnesota man named Glenn Johnson admitted to inappropriately touching a child while she slept. But a provision in his plea deal kept the charges off the public record. With his guilty plea under wraps, Johnson took a job as a school bus driver for a suburban Minnesota school district. Not even a background check had flagged him as a potential threat to children. Then last month, two high school girls told officials that Johnson, 52, had touched them inappropriately, in a case that mirrored his earlier arrest.
For years, Johnson remained off sex offender registries under an obscure provision in Minnesota law called a Stay of Adjudication, KARE 11 first reported. The provision allows some sex offenders to plead guilty and keep their offender status off of registries and publicly available court records. Such was the case in 1997, when an underage girl told authorities that Johnson had climbed into bed with her and rolled on top of her early one morning, according to a police report provided to by The Daily Beast by the Anoka County Attorney’s Office. She told police Johnson touched her groin over her underwear. The girl told authorities that she feared what people would say about her after she made the police report.
In an interview with investigators, Johnson admitted to touching the girl “in between the legs” with a sexual intent. He was charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct, for which he faced up to a combined 35 years in prison and a $55,000 fine. But when Johnson entered a guilty plea, an Anoka County court offered him a Stay of Adjudication. Under the deal, Johnson avoided a formal conviction. He would remain out of jail, pay $300 to cover court fees, and have his record withheld from the sex offender registry.
“The agreement presented to the Court contemplated no executed jail time, no sex offender treatment, and no sex offender registration,” the court ruled. “Defendant submitted to two psychological assessments. Both assessors opined that Defendant was not a risk to public safety and not in need of sex offender treatment.”
The case disappeared, even when Johnson applied to become a school bus driver, a job that required a special driver’s license and background check.
Kottkes’ Bus Service, the school bus company where Johnson worked, required all drivers to complete a criminal background check. But with no official conviction and no listing on the sex offender registry, Johnson’s record looked clean, despite his guilty plea.
And Johnson returned to his old behavior, his alleged victims say. Early in March, two high school girls told school officials that Johnson had made sexual contact with them off school property. One of the girls told a police that Johnson had given her a hug that “lasted longer than it should have,” during which he allegedly tightened his grip on her and touched her inappropriately under her clothes.
In an interview with police, Johnson admitted to the hug, but claimed nothing illegal had happened.
“The defendant acknowledged a hug from [the child] that lasted an inappropriate amount of time,” a charging document reads. “The defendant stated that he attempted to break up the hug by placing his right hand on [the child]’s upper chest and when that didn’t work, he placed his hand on her stomach area to try and break free. The defendant was successful in breaking free at this point.”
Another girl alleged similar inappropriate contact.
Both cases occurred off school property, and investigators told local media that there was no evidence Johnson took his bus driving job for its proximity to children. “There’s nothing to suggest at this point in time that Johnson was acting within his capacity of a bus driver to carry out these acts,” Detective Dan Douglas told KARE11.
The school district and Kottkes’ Bus Service said Johnson had been removed from his role.
“The complaints involve incidents that occurred outside of school and were not part of his regular job duties,” a representative for Anoka-Hennepin Schools told The Daily Beast in a statement. “Families that have students on the route serviced by this driver have already been informed.”
“Mr. Johnson is not currently employed by Kottkes’ due to a complaint that occurred outside of his duties for Kottkes,” Kottkes’ told Kare11 in a statement. “Our greatest concern is for the safety and wellbeing of the students we transport.”
Johnson did not return The Daily Beast’s voicemail message on Wednesday. He has been charged with three counts of criminal sexual conduct, for which he faces 60 years in prison and $90,000 in fines if convicted.
And this court appearance will likely be less generous than his last.
“My concern simply, Mr. Johnson, is that you not return to court, that you not have any other problems in your behavior,” Anoka County Judge Thomas Hayes said when waiving Johnson’s conviction in 1998. “I think that through this unfortunate experience you have gotten the message that you have to be more careful with your actions, that what you do, no matter what your intention, affects other people.
“And I hope you appreciate that.”
According to the two girls, he didn’t appreciate it enough.