Review of recorded witness interviews delays arraignment for man accused in Crust shooting

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John Lee Johnson (Courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)
John Lee Johnson (Courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

Several recorded interviews of witnesses are under review by attorneys in the case against a man accused of shooting a security guard during an altercation between two groups at The Crust restaurant in Williamsburg last August.

John Lee Johnson, 22, was scheduled for an arraignment in the Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court Tuesday morning, but his defense attorney said she wanted to review all video and audio evidence with him before he decides whether he wants to be tried by a judge or a jury.

The taped interviews are of both witnesses and other people relevant in the case, defense attorney Patricia Nagel said.

Johnson is now scheduled to be arraigned April 5 at 9 a.m. on two charges of maiming and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

While Johnson would need to decide at the arraignment whether a judge or jury would hear the case, his attorney said he will likely plead not guilty at his arraignment.

The charges stem from an Aug. 27 shooting at the Crust restaurant, in the 200 block of Richmond Road, which left a security guard with a bullet lodged in his lower back. The shooting occurred during a party that was hosted at the restaurant and drew over 100 people, according to testimony from Williamsburg Police Department Investigator Lang Craighill.

Tuesday morning, Nagel questioned whether prosecutors had given her all the recorded interviews that were pertinent to the defense’s case, because the interviews on her disks were copied in a different order than the prosecution’s disks.

Nagel said it would be a “logistical nightmare” if the prosecution’s CDs and DVDs of the interviews did not have the same content and labels as the defense’s copies.

Prosecutors agreed to give her copies of the disks that matched their copies, down to the label.

In court, Nagel said she saw a stack of “ten or 15” disks in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office that were identified as interviews in the Johnson case.

Four charges against Johnson were dismissed during a Jan. 12 preliminary hearing in the Williamsburg-James City County General District Court, including two counts of shooting into an occupied building, use of a firearm to shoot into an occupied building and reckless discharge of a firearm.

A seventh charge against Johnson, gang participation, was dropped by the prosecution during the preliminary hearing because there were no witnesses to testify to support the charge, prosecutor Katey Fennig said Jan. 12.

According to witness testimony from Craighill, a Crust event coordinator, a Crust security guard – who was shot during the incident – and a party attendee, two groups of men got into an altercation on the front patio of Crust just before the shooting took place.

The altercation occurred as tensions in the packed restaurant escalated, the security guard testified.

The security guard said he and his partner escorted one of the groups onto the sidewalk on Richmond Road, just outside the patio, and then took the other group to the breezeway, which is perpendicular to the sidewalk where the first group went.

Despite being separated, the two groups continued to yell loudly at each other.

Johnson is accused of shooting a security guard in the back after shooting toward the group on the Richmond Road sidewalk.

Nagel declined to comment on the case.

Fearing can be reached at sarah.f@localvoicemedia.com.

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