Former high school teacher sobs before being sentenced for stalking
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IDAHO FALLS — In a packed courtroom, a former Hillcrest High School teacher and soccer coach learned he was receiving prison time Monday for felony first-degree stalking.
Bryan Johnston, 50, was sentenced to a total of five years in prison with one and a half years fixed and three and a half years indeterminate. The court will retain jurisdiction, meaning Johnston will serve a rider. He was given credit for time he has served in the Bonneville County Jail.
Johnston was arrested in September after breaking a civil protection order and stalking a woman repeatedly between May and July. Court documents show he would appear at places that were part of the woman’s daily routine and attempted to contact the victim by using others, including former students, as go-betweens.
He’s accused of urinating on the victim’s mattress when she wasn’t home and placing her underwear in an envelope before leaving them on her boyfriend’s car. The woman also reported that tires on her vehicle were punctured.
Johnston pleaded guilty to the charge in October.
During an emotional sentencing hearing Monday afternoon, the victim said she had been involved with Johnston for at least five years and described the relationship as being “trapped.” She said she now gets worried whenever she sees a bald head or someone driving a car similar to Johnston’s.
“There’s really not much to show that he’s not a nice person, which is how I was involved with him in the first place,” she said in court. “He was very good at covering his tracks, very sweet with gifts and telling me he cared about me…(And) making me feel sorry for him in regards to how miserable his life was at home.”
The victim went on to say that Johnston only began apologizing after he was arrested, and that because of his actions, she’s been held back from maturing as a young adult. She expressed how she has been anxiously waiting for court proceedings to end.
“I’ve struggled with sleep, I’ve struggled with my health, I have lost financially so much more than I have ever gained just in this last year waiting for this to be over,” she said.
John Cutler, Johnston’s attorney, recommended his client be sentenced to work release and probation for one to three years. He said Johnston is a hardworking, successful member of the community and that going through a rider program would not be beneficial.
Cutler said there would be more of a chance for Johnston to make repairs for his crime while out of prison as he’s already working and would continue to pay restitution while supporting his family. He said Johnston would essentially have similar treatment but not in a prison setting.
Johnston visibly shook and, at times, sobbed while apologizing. He said that he has been in both individual and group counseling and has learned how to react to emotional situations.
“I have been doing all in my power to repair the damage I have done. I am truly sorry and will forever regret my actions… and will do all in my power to never act in a way that will never harm others ever again,” Johnston said.
Bonneville County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tanner Crowther recommended Johnston serve two years fixed and three years indeterminate while the court retains jurisdiction.
Crowther noted Johnston’s obsession with the victim and said a voice recorder was found in her home with Johnston’s fingerprint on the device. There were 27 recordings on the device containing conversations from inside the victim’s home ranging from minutes to hours.
Crowther said Johnston had a continuing pattern of behavior to harass and contact the victim in “very seriously invasive ways.”
“I think that the court has to send a message, not only to Mr. Johnston but to others when there are CPOs (civil protection orders) in place, you stop,” Crowther said. “This case is so preventable.”
District Judge Joel Tingey said this is not the case of a career criminal, but “somebody that was actually very productive in the community (and) a role model who did a lot of good things through his career.”
Tingey wasn’t comfortable giving Johnston probation as he felt Johnston could potentially pose a threat to the victim and others.
“(The victim) was subjected to basically living a hellish life during this time frame,” Tingey said. “This is a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde case…I get a lot of letters that really support Dr. Jekyll, but I’m sentencing Mr. Hyde.”