A 19-year-old Fresno man who was once the starting quarterback for McLane High School was convicted Thursday of clubbing a teen with a stick, assaulting the teen’s cousin and robbing them of $14, two sodas and a candy bar three years ago.
After the verdict was announced in Fresno County Superior Court, prosecutor Nana Knight wanted Herbert Stanley Johnson Jr., who had been free on $25,000 bail, to be taken into custody immediately, saying he was a flight risk since he was facing a potential prison sentence.
But defense attorney Linden Lindahl argued that Johnson was 16 at the time of the crime, had never been in trouble with the law before and never missed dozens of court appearances.
Johnson will be taken into custody when he’s sentenced Aug. 30.
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Struggling with the decision, Judge W. Kent Hamlin allowed Johnson to remain free on bail after noting Johnson’s lack of criminal history, his family support and his willingness to be on time to court. But he warned Johnson to stay away from the victims and remain out of trouble. The judge also informed Johnson that he will be taken into custody once he is sentenced on Aug. 30.
“Herb” Johnson was a standout football player at McLane, leading the North Yosemite League in total offense as a sophomore before he got in trouble. He missed his junior season but came back to play his senior year.
The jury of five men and seven women deliberated about two hours before finding Johnson guilty of robbing and assaulting Albert Garcia and his cousin Andrew Carrillo. After the verdict was announced, Hamlin told Johnson he faced as much as 10 years in prison.
The crime happened near Fresno Street and Clinton Avenue in central Fresno around 9:30 p.m. April 19, 2013. After Johnson was arrested, he spent six months in custody at the Juvenile Justice Center south of Fresno, before his parents posted bail in October 2013.
Court records say Johnson was with Rayshawn Raymond Slaton, now 21, and Khalid Lamont Gladney, now 19, when they assaulted the victims. In May 2015, Slaton pleaded no contest to robbery and Gladney pleaded no contest to robbery and assault in connection with the case. Slaton was sentenced to three years in prison and Gladney was sentenced to four years in prison.
Johnson, who has two children, declined a plea deal that would have resulted in no prison time, but he could have been sentenced to custody in the Fresno County Jail.
During the trial, Garcia testified he and his cousin had just left a store with two sodas and a Snickers bar for his grandmother when they were attacked by Johnson and his two associates. He said Johnson told him: “Give me all you’ve got.” He remembered seeing his cousin being pinned down on the ground and robbed of his iPod. He said Johnson then hit him in the head with a stick or tree branch.
Johnson was a standout football player at McLane, leading the North Yosemite League in total offense as a sophomore before he got in trouble.
“I don’t remember much after that. I blacked out,” he said.
Once he regained consciousness, he said he no longer had his bag containing the sodas and Snickers. He said he also didn’t have the $14 that was in his pocket.
Garcia said one blow caused him to lose a lower tooth. He also suffered a broken jaw, a swollen left eye and a bloody face because he was hit several times in the head, Knight told the jury.
Garcia went to McLane High but testified he didn’t know Johnson before the attack. His cousin also went to McLane, but he knew Johnson and knew he played quarterback for the varsity football team, Knight told the jury.
Lindahl argued that Johnson did not participate in the robbery or club Garcia with a stick. But he may have slugged one of the victims in self-defense, Lindahl said.
Before the attack, Garcia told the jury that he didn’t like leaving the house. After the attack, his said his fear is even worse because he doesn’t trust people.
Thursday, Hamlin said the attack was “callous and cruel and wholly unnecessary.” He also said Johnson “without explanation” exhibited “stupid and violent behavior.”
In the end, however, Knight said: “Justice was served for the victims.”