Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Joshua Johnson

Other Virginia exonerations
On April 12, 2021, Joshua Johnson, a decorated member of the U.S. Secret Service Agency’s uniformed police, was indicted on a charge of raping a female agent of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Alexandria, Virginia in June 2020.

Johnson, who was 29 years old at the time of the alleged rape, was arrested on April 15, 2021 and maintained his innocence. Johnson had been one of three uniformed Secret Service officers who were honored for valor in 2016 for preventing an armed gunman from entering the perimeter of the White House.

Johnson went to trial in Alexandria City Circuit Court in June 2022. His accuser, M.M., who also was 29 years old at the time of the alleged attack, testified that she and Johnson had a relationship commonly termed as “friends with benefits.” A few times a year, depending on work assignments, they would meet for sex in a hotel.

On June 10, 2020, M.M. said that she and another ATF agent came to Virginia to deliver evidence in a case. She said that the agent and Johnson came to her hotel room for drinks. She said Johnson became intoxicated and that after her fellow agent left, she and Johnson got into the Jacuzzi. She said they had consensual sexual activity there and then moved to the king-sized bed. There, she said Johnson put on a condom and they began having sex. She said she asked him to stop and he did.

M.M. testified that they fell asleep on opposite sides of the bed. At around 4:30 a.m., she said that Johnson moved over and forced himself upon her. She said she tried to push him away and that at one point, he said, “Damn, you’re strong.”

She said Johnson flipped her face down on the bed, pinned her wrists, and had sexual intercourse until he ejaculated. She said that after he finished, she was in shock. She fell back to sleep. When she awoke, Johnson was gone, having left money on the table for purchase of a morning after contraceptive pill.

She said that before she left to fly home, she called her best friend, Shanikqua Barnett, to report what happened. “I was in shock and disbelief,” M.M. said. “I just need to tell someone for them to, I guess, reassure me or help me understand, like, what just happened.”

M.M. said that instead of reporting it to police, she tried to bury it. “I wanted to forget it,” she testified. She said that she also told her roommate Krystal White and a fellow ATF agent, Jazmine White.

M.M. said she cut off communications with Johnson. M.M. testified that she became depressed and her job suffered. She finally spoke to her supervisor, Janet Devito, on December 2, 2020 and reported that she had been sexually assaulted. M.M. testified that she thought it would be kept confidential. However, Devito, as she was mandated to do, made a report to her superiors, who began investigating the allegations. Shortly thereafter, M.M. made an official report to the Alexandria Police Department.

Barnett testified that when M.M. came home, she said she had been raped. Barnett testified that M.M. appeared depressed, and her physical appearance suffered. Krystal White also testified that M.M. said she had been raped. Jazmine White, a colleague in the ATF, testified that a day after M.M. flew back to California, M.M. said she had been sexually assaulted.

The prosecution played a recorded phone call between M.M. and Johnson that had been arranged by Alexandria Detective Ford Rhee on December 10, 2020.

During the call, Johnson was heard to apologize, say that he had been drunk, and say that he didn’t remember everything that happened.

During the call, M.M. said, “You said, ‘Damn, you’re strong’…I was literally kicking you and punching you to get you off of me.” Johnson had replied, “I apologize deeply if I did, and you’re saying I did.”

Johnson testified and denied raping M.M. He testified that he had not been drunk and that he remembered the events of the night. His account of the evening paralleled M.M.’s account until the early morning sexual encounter. Johnson said that M.M. had initiated physical contact and had pushed herself back into him. He said that she had lifted her hips so that he could pull down her leggings and that she guided his penis inside her.

Johnson said he told M.M. to slow down, but she did not and he ejaculated. Johnson said they had had unprotected sex in the past on several occasions. He said that in those instances, he always provided money for a Plan B contraceptive pill.

Johnson told the jury that after not hearing from her for six months, he got the phone call from M.M. in December. He testified that he thought that she had a boyfriend listening in on the call, so he tried to play along. He said he had thought M.M. was upset because he had ejaculated, not because she believed she had been sexually assaulted. That was what he was apologizing for, Johnson said. He said he pretended on the call that he had been drunk because he assumed the boyfriend was listening, and he wanted to help M.M. by corroborating her story.

There was no physical or forensic evidence in the case. The prosecution introduced text messages between Johnson and M.M. leading up to their rendezvous at the hotel.

On June 23, 2021, the jury began deliberating. During the deliberation, the jury foreperson reported that a member of the jury had disclosed that he had once been falsely accused of sexual assault. The prosecution asked that the juror be removed for failing to disclose that allegation during the jury selection process.

When questioned, the juror said that the mother of the purported victim had accused him of sexual assault, but never reported it to police. The juror said the accusation was false.

The trial judge granted the motion to excuse the juror and brought back an alternate juror who had already been dismissed.

Later that day, the jury convicted Johnson of rape and he was taken into custody. In September 2021, Johnson was sentenced to three years and six months in prison. On September 29, 2021, however, the conviction was vacated based on a defense motion for a new trial. The defense argued that when the alternate juror was brought back, she was not given the jury instructions that had been given to the rest of the jurors. Moreover, the jury had not been instructed to begin deliberations all over, from the beginning. Johnson was released on bond on October 6.

Prior to a second trial, the trial judge then ordered that the prosecutors and the defense have a joint interview of Barnett, and that the interview be recorded, so the defense and prosecution could clarify what she claimed M.M. told her. In that interview, Barnett disclosed that M.M. had never told her that Johnson raped her, but that M.M. told Barnett that Johnson had wanted to have sex again, but she was able to push him away and put him in a headlock.

Subsequent to that interview, the judge granted a defense motion to exclude Barnett from testifying as a “recent complaint” witness in the second trial.

The judge also granted a defense motion to exclude at a second trial the testimony of Krystal White that M.M told White that she had been raped. The defense noted that during Detective Rhee’s investigation, M.M. told the detective that she had “attempted’ to tell Krystal White, but that she did not use the word rape. Although White testified at the first trial that M.M. told her that Mr. Johnson raped her, during her interview with Detective Rhee, M.M. said she told White that Johnson had “disrespected” her and “violated" her, but that she had not given details.

Johnson went to trial a second time, represented by a new legal team— Kimberly Stover and Sean Sherlock of the Alexandria law firm of King, Campbell, Poretz, and Mitchell. The case again rose and fell on the credibility of M.M. and Johnson.

During the closing argument, Sherlock told the jury, “What he [Johnson] did was ejaculate inside her without her explicit permission.” Sherlock added that M.M. did not try to escape the hotel room, but instead fell back to sleep.

On March 16, 2023, the jury acquitted Johnson. Although he had been fired by the Secret Service after his conviction, Johnson had been reinstated after the conviction was vacated. He had remained suspended without pay. His attorneys said Johnson would seek to be fully reinstated.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 10/5/2023
Last Updated: 10/5/2023
County:Alexandria City
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2020
Sentence:3 years and 6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:29
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No