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Robert Johnson

Other Westchester County Exonerations
In or around 1979, a series of money orders were stolen from a United Parcel Service (UPS) truck in Atlanta, Georgia. Available court records do not provide precise dates for the thefts, but each stolen money order had a maximum value of $200.

Tracey Johnson and her common-law husband, Robert Johnson, of Westchester County, New York, came into possession of seven of the stolen money orders. According to later testimony, the Johnsons told friends and neighbors that they had received approximately $1,400 in money orders as a gift. They told some people that the money orders were a gift from Tracey’s father in Michigan, and they told others that the money orders were a gift from Tracey’s uncle in Atlanta.

In 1979, Tracey signed her name to these money orders and used them to make payments for rent, for tuition at the private school their children attended, and for a vehicle rented through Budget Rent A Car. The three money orders used to pay Budget were identified as stolen.

When the Johnsons returned the rental car, police interviewed them regarding the stolen money orders. The Johnsons denied any knowledge of the theft. They said that the money orders had been a gift. Police arrested Tracey and Robert, who were each charged with seven criminal counts related to the money orders. Three of the counts were for forgery in the second degree with regard to the money orders paid to Budget. Robert Johnson had previous convictions for possession of stolen property and attempted possession of a stolen credit card, among other crimes.

The Johnsons’ joint trial took place in September 1980 in Westchester County Supreme Court. At the trial, the parties stipulated that the money orders had been stolen from a UPS truck and that Tracey had signed her name to the three money orders negotiated to Budget. Tracey’s father did not testify regarding her claim that the money orders had been a gift from him. It is not known whether the defense offered any evidence regarding the claim that the money orders were a gift. On September 18, 1980, the jury convicted Tracey of three counts of forgery and Robert of three counts of aiding and abetting in a forgery. The court sentenced Robert to between two and a half years to five years in prison. Available records did not include Tracey’s sentence.

On June 1, 1982, the the appellate division of the Supreme Court reversed the convictions of both Robert and Tracey. The court ruled that because Tracey had only signed her own name to the money orders, she could not be guilty of forgery, and Robert, therefore, could not be guilty of aiding and abetting in the forgeries, since no forgeries had occurred. In the same opinion, the court dismissed the Johnsons’ indictments.

After the dismissal, Robert Johnson filed a claim for unjust conviction and imprisonment under New York Court of Claims Act. Robert died before the court ruled on his claim, and his sister continued to pursue the claim on behalf of his estate. On September 14, 1992, Judge Gerard M. Weisberg of the Court of Claims awarded $40,000 in compensation to Robert’s estate.

- Meghan Barrett Cousino

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Posting Date: 2/8/2021
Last Updated: 2/8/2021
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Forgery
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1979
Sentence:2 1/2 years to 5 years
Race/Ethnicity:Don't Know
Age at the date of reported crime:
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No