Hosemann says he’s innocent; Johnston says he tied her up

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2002

[01/03/02]Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann, charged with aggravated assault, said Wednesday he is innocent. In the same signed statement, he says he will continue most of his courtroom duties.

Separately, the sworn document on which Hosemann’s arrest was based reveals that Juanita “Nita” Johnston said Hosemann, in whose courtroom she worked until 1998 as a court reporter, tied her up, beat her, pulled her by the hair and left her for dead on his Hinds County property.

Johnston’s statement was given to Hinds County Sheriff’s Department investigators who also recorded it. In turn, it and undisclosed physical evidence became the basis used to obtain the Dec. 28 arrest warrant charging Hosemann. He spent a night in jail in Hinds County and was released under $25,000 bond.

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The detailed affidavit has Johnston explaining how she was injured and by whom. She was found semi-conscious on Hosemann’s property on Dec. 6 and has been hospitalized since.

In the statement, Johnston, 47, says she was with Hosemann on his land near Utica on Dec. 6 “when a verbal altercation occurred about men she had slept with prior to their relationship,” the document reads. “Afterwards, Mr. Hosemann became very upset and violent.”

Johnston said that she was picked up by her hair, “struck in the head, beaten and kicked in the stomach … and that her feet and hands were tied during this incident.” She also said she thinks she was left to die.

She stated that she and Hosemann had a “long-term relationship for numerous years” and that “this relationship is still ongoing while Hosemann is still presently married to his wife.”

Hosemann has filed for divorce from his second wife, Julia Skinner Hosemann, to end their three-month marriage.

During divorce proceedings in 1996 and 1997, Johnston’s and Hosemann’s former spouses accused the pair of having an intimate relationship. Hosemann’s first wife, Val, was granted a divorce from him in 1997 on charges of adultery, in which Johnston was named.

Before being found Dec. 6, Johnston was last reported seen around 9 p.m. Dec. 4 arguing with Hosemann near the Puckett Road property.

Neighbors said they had seen Hosemann near the property the day before Johnston was found, but they did not report seeing Johnston there.

The warrant document has Hosemann confirming to investigators “he had picked up Ms. Johnston and took her to his property on Puckett Road. Sometime later, an argument erupted between the two.”

She was found around 5 a.m. two days later about 10 feet behind the mobile home on the property. Hosemann and Billy Leist found Johnston after her family initiated a search.

Despite being severely injured in her lower abdomen and back, she was found propped up against a tree, her clothes clean.

Hosemann’s statement Wednesday offered no explanation of how she was injured, but proclaimed his innocence and asked for prayers. He had responded to a reporter’s question on Dec. 7 indicating he had no role in Johnston’s injuries.

While in the critical care unit at ParkView Regional Medical Center, Johnston was guarded by security and had told her family she did not want to see Hosemann.

She was transferred to University Medical Center in Jackson Friday to receive specialized neurological care and remains protected. She is undergoing physical therapy to help her walk again.

“I know he will not stop until he gets me,” she said in the arrest warrant document. “He will continue to try to make contact with members of (my) family and friends.”

In Hosemann’s statement, he said he was “totally shocked when these charges were filed against me and I was arrested.” He said he is innocent and that he “did not at any time strike, kick, beat or in any physical manner harm Nita Johnston.”

He said he did attempt to see her in the hospital, but was stopped by guards.

While Attorney General Mike Moore has been critical of state law that allows judges to stay on the bench while involved in a criminal investigation, Hosemann said he will return to court. “I will be resuming my duties as the County Court judge in Warren County. These charges have nothing to do with my conduct while carrying out the duties of my office,” he said in the written statement.

He said it is “his intention” to try only civil matters for the next 30 days, avoiding any criminal cases.

His attorney, William B. Kirskey of Jackson, would not comment on Hosemann’s statement.

Hosemann’s release from jail is based on several conditions, including that he not come within 500 feet of Johnston and that he attend an anger-management program.