Local News

Friday, Dec 20 2013 03:40 PM

Attorney for rape suspect calls client 'scapegoat'

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Two cases against the man charged with a series of rapes in east Bakersfield were consolidated Friday, and the attorney representing him said afterward that his client is a "scapegoat."

Billy Ray Johnson Jr. agreed to postpone until Feb. 10 his first trial, on charges of five felonies in connection with firing a gun into the air. That date coincides with the trial date for the rape charges, and will likely also be postponed as Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman told the court he's already advised Supervising Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer that more time will be needed.

Zimmer will prosecute the case.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that Johnson's DNA linked him to several rapes that terrorized east Bakersfield residents during the summer. The assaults occurred July 1, July 18, Aug. 1 and Aug. 19 and involved five rape victims, the other four being victims of false imprisonment and one a victim of an assault with the intent to commit rape.

Two assaults and two burglaries occurred in the 2900 block of Virginia Avenue. The other rapes were reported in the 200 block of Quantico Avenue and the 4300 block of Columbus Street.

Johnson's being held on $5 million bail on those charges.

Cadman said Friday morning that law enforcement arrested the wrong man. He said the 33-year-old Johnson is distraught at being charged with crimes he did not commit.

The attorney drew comparisons to the case of Giovanni Ramirez, the suspect exonerated of the beating of a San Francisco Giants fan in a parking lot at Dodger Stadium in 2011. In that case, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck made comments regarding Ramirez's guilt after his arrest but ultimately turned out to be wrong.

Johnson has been in custody since being arrested on the weapons charge Oct. 14, a case in which gang enhancements have been filed that the defense argues should not have been.

It's alleged Johnson fired a gun into the air as a show of power on the part of the Country Boy Crips.

Deputy District Attorney Cole McKnight said during Friday's hearing that a Bakersfield police sergeant witnessed Johnson fire the gun in the presence of a dozen or more people at a bonfire. Johnson was wearing gang paraphernalia at the time.

McKnight said Johnson has admitted to being a gang member in the past, and on his Facebook page posted that he will be "deep country until my casket drops," in reference to his being a member of the Country Boy Crips.

Judge John S. Somers will make a decision on the gang enhancements Monday.

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