Reporting Mary Bubala
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Imagine spending seven months of your life in the Baltimore City Jail, held for a crime you didn’t commit. It happened to teen boxer Deon Johnson.
Mary Bubala reports why he’s in the fight of his life to make up for lost time.
Deon Johnson, 17, of West Baltimore — a rising star in the world of boxing – was on the path to the 2012 Summer Olympics when his dream took a big hit.
In 2009, Johnson was badly hurt in an incident with city police. He accused officers of knocking him off an illegal dirt bike.
“Skin removed from my body, and I have back pain,” said Johnson.
Johnson sued the officers, won a court battle and a $42,000 settlement with the Baltimore City Police.
As Johnson was recovering and hoping to get back in the ring to pursue his Olympic dream, he says he was thrown a sucker punch. City cops arrested him for the attempted murder of one of his friends.
Johnson’s attorney claims the arrest was direct retaliation for victory in the dirt bike incident.
“I was appalled,” said J. Wyndal Gordon, Johnson’s attorney. “It was the most disgusting situation I could ever have imagined from a Baltimore City police officer.”
Johnson claims officers taunted him about the money he had won, saying he’d never get out of prison to spend it.
“They were interviewing me and talking about my lawsuit situation so I already knew from that how it was going,” said Johnson.
“Officers who investigated Mr. Johnson in this case acted more like mobsters,” said Gordon.
For seven long months, Johnson was out of the ring. His frustration grew as he waited behind bars at the Baltimore City Detention Center. Away from his family, he missed the birth of his daughter.
“I felt like I was a bad father,” said Johnson.
Shortly after Johnson’s arrest, a witness and the victim both said the shooter was not Johnson. The case against him was unraveling.
“They were trying to destroy this young man, they were trying to destroy his career, trying to destroy him as a father, as a friend, as a son,” said Gordon.
On Monday, July 11, the morning of Johnson’s trial, prosecutors dropped all charges.
“It was the best feeling in my life, knowing that I am going to see my family, my daughter, and get back in the ring, the most thing I wanted to do in my life,” said Johnson.
“He suffered tremendously and there wasn’t a single day where he wasn’t in there, that it was just OK to be in there,” said Gordon. “Everyday of being in prison is a living hell.”
Despite repeated calls, the Baltimore Police Department did not comment on this story.