United States v. Johnson

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
Docket NumberCRIMINAL ACTION 19-367
Decision Date19 May 2022




United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 19, 2022


Bartle, J.

Joseph R. Johnson, Jr. has filed a motion for a certificate of innocence pursuant to the Unjust Conviction and Imprisonment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2513. Our Court of Appeals reversed his convictions for making a false statement to the court in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 and for aggravated identity theft under 18 U.S.C. § 1028A. It directed entry of judgment of acquittal. The basis for the Court of Appeals' decision was the failure of the Government to prove the materiality element for the false statement offense. United States v. Johnson, 19 F.4th 248 (3d Cir. 2021).


The evidence presented at trial, taken in the light most favorable to the Government, established the following facts.

On or about October 26, 2015, a Philadelphia based attorney named Dolores M. Troiani filed a complaint for defamation in the United States District Court for the Eastern


District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Andrea Constand against the former Montgomery County District Attorney, Bruce Castor. See Constand v. Castor, Civil Action No. 15-5799 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 26, 2015). The case was assigned to the Honorable Eduardo C. Robreno.

On January 3, 2016, Troiani received three emails with various attachments from the email address of devoutplayerhater@yahoo.com. These emails threatened the release of certain personal information of Constand, who had previously accused former actor and comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault. Evidence presented at trial also established that an individual employing the username “Devout Player Hater” generated several internet postings voicing support for Bill Cosby and questioning the motives of Cosby's accusers.

On February 1, 2016, an unknown individual hand-delivered to the Clerk's Office in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania an envelope containing a document that read “PRAECIPE TO ATTACH EXHIBIT “A” TO PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT.” The praecipe appeared to be signed by Troiani. The attachments to the praecipe mirrored the attachments to the series of January 3, 2016 emails to Troiani that were generated from the devoutplayhater@yahoo.com account. Troiani testified at trial that she had neither submitted nor authorized the filing of the document in question and had not signed it. She immediately


informed Judge Robreno of the fraudulent document, and he struck it from the record as a fraud.

Yahoo provided subscriber records for the “devoutplayerhater” email, which included an Internet Protocol (“IP”) address used to establish the account. Evidence was also presented of records from Verizon, the Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) for the IP address. Verizon identified devoutplayerhater's subscriber username as “jjohnson531@dslextreme.com.” Verizon revealed that during the relevant time frame, the subscriber account had been maintained by a third-party ISP, IKANO d/b/a DSL Extreme.

DSL Extreme provided records associated with its registered customer “jjohnson531, ” who was identified as Joe Johnson, with an alternate email address jjohnson531@gmail.com and a residential address of 2600 Brinkley Road, Fort Washington, Maryland. Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) records identify Joe Johnson of 2600 Brinkley Road, # 611, Fort Washington, Maryland, with a date of birth of May 31, 1970. The photograph on the DMV records for Joe Johnson depicts defendant Johnson.

The Government also presented records from the United States Courts' electronic document filing system, Public Access to Court Electronic Records (“PACER”) for a registered user named Joseph Johnson, Jr. with a username of “jjohnson531.”


Johnson admitted to FBI special agent Kurt Kuechler prior...

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