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Posted August 13, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Lawyer says authorities didn't disclose witness

By Joe Beck

The attorney for Christopher Gerrit Johnson accused authorities Tuesday of failing to tell him about a witness who could provide favorable evidence for his client at a bench trial scheduled for Friday in Shenandoah County General District Court.

Johnson, 33, of Strasburg, is facing a charge of disorderly conduct after he allegedly entered Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 19 with a 2x4 board bearing the words "high-powered rifle."

The incident occurred days after a gunman killed 26 students and educators at a school in Newton, Conn., bearing the same name as Sandy Hook Elementary.

David Silek, who practices law in Manassas and Front Royal, said a bookkeeper at the Strasburg elementary school told him last week she was able to continue performing her duties while Johnson interacted with school officials in the central office on Dec. 19.

"She wasn't disturbed by the events," Silek said, referring to the alleged presence of Johnson and the board in the office. "It never interrupted her. She continued counting money and preparing the deposits."

Silek said he didn't learn of the bookkeeper until she contacted him early last week to tell him she was planning to be out of town on Friday.

Law enforcement and prosecutors are required to inform criminal defense attorneys of witnesses and evidence that may help the defendant.

As a result of his late discovery of the witness and the possibility that the prosecution was legally bound to identify her to the defense, Silek said he may ask for the trial to be delayed.

Silek said he had issued a blanket subpoena for school witnesses in May but the subpoenas have not reached some school employees until recently.

Silek said the prosecutors in the case told him that law enforcement officials had not told them about the bookkeeper witness.

Frederick County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Nicholas Manthos, who has been assigned to prosecute the case, refused to comment.

"I'm aware of his allegations, and we'll wait until court," Manthos said.

Officials with the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office also declined to comment.

The Frederick County Commonwealth's Attorney office was assigned to the case after Shenandoah County Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley sought a special prosecutor for the case.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


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