Former guard faces sentencing

EBENSBURG – A former state prison guard who served roughly two years in prison for smuggling drugs into the former State Correctional Institution at Cresson is set to be sentenced today for reckless endangerment after being accused of rape in June 2011.

Northern Cambria police arrested Clarence Johnson Jr., 39, 4108 Crawford Ave., Northern Cambria, after a woman accused him of raping her at his home. The incident occurred barely two years after his release from the Cambria County Prison on drug charges.

A rape charge was later withdrawn, and Johnson pleaded guilty last month to a lesser reckless endangerment charge.

First Deputy District Attorney Heath Long said prosecutors agreed to pursue the lesser charge because the victim realized the difficulty in proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“There’s always, in these cases, proof issues – especially when one person is saying ‘consensual’ and another is saying ‘not so consensual,'” Long said.

He said the victim wanted to avoid a trial and agreed to the lesser charge.

Johnson’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Kenneth Sottile, was unavailable for comment.

In 2007, Johnson pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges including drug possession, contraband and bribery for his role in a drug-smuggling scheme at SCI Cresson. He could have faced up to 147 years in prison.

As part of a plea deal, Judge Timothy P. Creany sentenced Johnson to up to two years in Cambria County Prison and five years’ probation, saying Johnson deserved jail for his crime but also a chance to change.

Long said it’s likely the judge will remember Johnson and how he used the second chance he was given.

“And, we’ll certainly argue that he said he was going to clean up his act, and here we are again,” Long said.