Bradford County Court: Monroeton parolee found guilty of possessing a firearm


A Bradford County jury has found a Monroeton man guilty but mentally ill for a felony charge of Person Not to Possess a Firearm. John M. Johnson, age 37, was found guilty by a jury of seven men and five women for an incident on October 23, 2019, on Spencer Lane in Franklin Township. On that date, State Parole Agent Bryan Berry arrived at the Johnson residence to check on the parole, who had previously been convicted of Delivery of a Controlled Substance, Burglary and Criminal Trespass, and was legally prohibited from possessing a firearm.

During Berry’s search of Johnson, Berry discovered a .22 caliber long rifle hidden in his pant leg. Johnson was taken into custody, Pennsylvania State Police were called and the criminal charge was filed.

At trial, the defendant’s attorney raised an insanity defense, claiming either Johnson did not know what he was doing or he did not understand what he was doing was wrong.

The defense called Dr. George Sowerby, a psychiatrist, to testify as to Johnson’s psychiatric state. Johnson testified on his own behalf, and his mother, Pearl Johnson, also testified. Steve Wilmot, a counselor at the jail, was also called as a defense witness.

Chad M. Salsman / District Attorney

In one of the quicker verdicts in the Bradford County Court, the jury returned its guilty verdict in less than half an hour. The trial was overseen by President Judge Maureen T. Beirne. The Commonwealth was represented by Bradford County District Attorney Chad M. Salsman. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was only the second jury trial Salsman has litigated as District Attorney. Both have resulted in guilty verdicts.

Johnson will be sentenced at a later date. Johnson faces up to 10 years in state prison. A defendant who is found guilty but mentally ill may be given any sentence that may lawfully be imposed on any person convicted of the same crime. However, before imposing sentence, the court must hold a hearing and make findings concerning the defendant’s current mental condition and need for treatment. The law provides that a defendant who is severely mentally disabled and in need of treatment at the time of sentencing will, consistent with available resources, be furnished such treatment as is psychiatrically or psychologically indicated for his or her mental illness. The Mental Health Procedures Act of Pennsylvania dictates where and how a defendant will be treated, for example, whether in prison or in a mental treatment facility.