Johnston: I still love him

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 21, 2002

Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann gives a press conference Wednesday at the Warren County Courthouse about his retirement effective Easter Sunday. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[03/21/02]Through tears, Juanita “Nita” Johnston said Wednesday she is “ashamed” of what has happened since Dec. 6.

The woman found that day injured on Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann’s Hinds County property also said she loved Hosemann, had for many years and still does.

In a second day of rapid developments in the case, a Hinds County prosecutor said in Jackson that the aggravated assault charge filed against Hosemann will still be presented to a grand jury despite Johnston’s repeated statements that Hosemann is not responsible for hurting her.

At the Warren County Courthouse to withdraw as her attorney, Paul Kelly Loyacono said Johnston, 48, exhibits “the classic symptoms of abused woman syndrome.”

“I have lately been receiving outside interference between me and my client,” Loyacono told Judge John Kitchens. “I think she is probably not emotionally in a state to decide what is in her best interest.”

Kitchens allowed Loyacono to withdraw, talked with Johnston and then allowed the former court reporter to drop her $75,000 civil suit against Hosemann over money and property acquired during their relationship, including a horse.

Using a walker, Johnston arrived early in the Warren County courtroom where Hosemann, 50, was conducting a television press conference a day after he announced plans to retire at the end of the month.

Johnston listened, then supplemented earlier statements that she didn’t know who hurt her by saying that she probably injured herself.

“My surgeon has told me that my injuries were a result of my alcohol and drug intake and due to the fact that I sat still in one position for a long time,” she said.

“I could have gotten up and fallen down. I could have wandered around,” Johnston said.

A statement from Hosemann after his arrest said he was “totally shocked” and “totally innocent.” He has called the case a hoax. Johnston has said they went together to his Puckett Road ranch property on Dec. 4 and an argument followed. Her statement says he left her alone in the mobile home, outside of which she was found early on the morning of Dec. 6.

Johnston spent more than a month in the hospital and underwent abdominal surgery. Loyacono said nerve damage is why she uses the walker.

Hosemann was arrested by the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department on Dec. 28 and charged with aggravated assault. A Dec. 27 affidavit signed by Investigator Pamela Turner says Johnston described, in detail, how and why Hosemann beat her and that he would seek vengeance for the statement.

The battered spouse or battered woman syndrome refers to a psychological condition in which an abused person is so dominated by another that the abuse victim sees no fault in the abuser and instead takes all blame.

In a March 8 interview with The Vicksburg Post, her first, Johnston was asked about the syndrome. She said people had told her about it.

In Jackson, Assistant District Attorney Robert Taylor said the felony assault charge and other information will be presented to a grand jury to be convened April 15.

He indicated all of Johnston’s statements will be presented and that she visited the office Wednesday to make another plea in Hosemann’s behalf.

“This case has not been dismissed, and I do not know why,” Johnston said in Vicksburg. “I didn’t want this to happen. I did not want this to happen.”

During Hosemann’s press conference he said he was retiring because the felony charges pending against him are interfering with his duties.

“I have worried more about the judgeship than myself over the past three months,” Hosemann said. And, “With the charges pending against me in Hinds County, it was incumbent on me to retire.”

In written statements faxed to Gov. Ronnie Musgrove Tuesday, Hosemann said he is retiring effective March 31 because he was forced to cancel sessions in his own court Monday because of the pending charges. Musgrove, who is responsible for naming an interim judge, said later that he would announce his selection before the end of the month.

Despite a call from Attorney General Mike Moore for him to be removed until the charge against him was settled, Hosemann remained on the bench where he oversees misdemeanor criminal matters, civil cases and youth court cases.

“I thought this would end real quickly, but it hasn’t happened and it’s sad,” Hosemann said.

Hosemann, who is also under a gag order not to discuss the case with the media, avoided repeating criticism of Hinds court and law enforcement officials, but did repeat his statement that he is innocent of the charge.

On Monday, he appeared in a 30-minute hearing before Hinds County Judge Bobby DeLaughter to answer for public comments he agreed were in violation of DeLaughter’s order, which he also agreed was valid.

Hosemann is due back in DeLaughter’s court Friday morning on a new motion to dismiss the charge. DeLaughter, before recusing himself on an earlier motion to dismiss, pointed out that regardless of any action he takes, the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office can still present its information to a grand jury.

“They won’t listen to me,” Johnston said. “I’m very, very frustrated.”

Two Vicksburg attorneys announced plans Tuesday to seek Hosemann’s post in the November election.

Vicksburg attorney Robert C. Arledge, 44, filed qualifying paperwork to seek the office, and Warren County Prosecutor Johnny Price, 55, said he will file. Both said their decisions had nothing to do with the charges pending against Hosemann.

Price, who has also said Hosemann should have stepped aside until the charges were resolved, has practiced in Hosemann’s court for 12 years as the county prosecutor. He said he would be filing before the May 10 qualifying deadline.