By Attorney General Dana Nessel
LANSING — Michael Vincenzo Johnson, 30, of Casper, Wyoming has pled guilty to two counts of Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct for sexual assaults he committed against two Kalamazoo County women in 2013 when he was a student at Western Michigan University (WMU), Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced.
The first assault occurred in a WMU dormitory room on January 19, 2013. The victim, an 18-year-old freshman, was physically helpless and in a state of extreme intoxication. Johnson was a 20-year-old upper-classman at the time.
Johnson committed the second assault in Augusta, Michigan on February 15 or 16, 2013, at a private home. In that instance, he forced himself on a 16-year-old high school student.
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In 2017, the WMU Police Department referred the case to the Kalamazoo Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) project, which re-opened the WMU case in June 2020. In the course of that investigation, Kalamazoo SAKI discovered the second victim, who had reported her sexual assault to the Augusta Police Department in 2013. Both the victim and defendant were interviewed by police. The victim’s sexual assault kit was tested in 2013 and the victim underwent a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) exam, but no police report was ever generated.
SAKI investigators learned that Johnson had moved to Wyoming in January 2016 to become a sportswriter for a local newspaper. The 23-year-old almost immediately began pursuing sexual relationships with female high school students and athletes. Johnson was arrested in Wyoming in April 2016 on charges of accosting minors for immoral purposes, manufacturing child pornography, and providing marijuana to minors. He was ultimately convicted by plea and served time in a Wyoming prison. Once paroled, Johnson was arrested on the SAKI charges and extradited to Kalamazoo in May 2022.
Both victims, who watched the defendant’s guilty plea via Zoom, voiced their gratitude for the opportunity to work with the SAKI team and have their cases re-investigated and prosecuted. The women have acknowledged how detrimental the sexual assaults and lack of prosecution were for them and they indicated the positive effects of having justice and closure. The result is that they finally feel believed.
One victim told SAKI investigators, “You helped me in the process of re-opening a wound and allowing it to heal the right way.” The other victim called the guilty plea, “validation and justice.” She added, “I gave up completely on anything being done. I truly appreciate the work and effort you all have put in for me.”
“It took a lot of courage for the survivors of these assaults to come forward and help the Kalamazoo SAKI team identify this offender,” Nessel said. “He had already moved to another state to continue his pattern of assaulting young women and girls. I’m grateful for the hard work of the Kalamazoo SAKI investigators and participating law enforcement agencies in Michigan and Wyoming for their help in taking a sexual predator off the streets.”
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said, “These convictions are evidence of the excellent work continuing to be done to investigate untested sexual assault kits and hold accountable the people who committed the assaults.” Getting went on to say, “Even though it is a decade after the assault, the victims are continuing to suffer the trauma of their attack. The guilty should be suffering as well.” Getting thanked the Michigan Legislature and Attorney General Dana Nessel for their continued support and assistance, saying, “Without it, this would not be possible.”
Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Kenneth Barnard on March 20, 2023, at 8:30 a.m.
The Kalamazoo SAKI project, established in 2017, is funded by the Michigan Legislature and involves a partnership between the Attorney General’s office, the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office, and the YWCA of Kalamazoo. The SAKI project applies the nationally recognized best practice “team approach” to the re-investigation and prosecution of cold-case sexual assaults. The team consists of a special assistant attorney general, deputized investigators employed by the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office, and a victim advocate/therapist employed by the YWCA of Kalamazoo.