Guilty plea in Whisper Ridge case

Guilty plea in Whisper Ridge case

A former administrator at Whisper Ridge Behavioral Health System, a treatment center for juveniles, pleaded guilty June 20 to attempting to have carnal knowledge of a minor under her care. Bianca Nicole Johnson signed a plea agreement with city prosecutors that says she will assist in the prosecution of other abuses at the embattled facility on Arlington Boulevard.

On December 25, 2004, another employee of Whisper Ridge found a letter in a 15-year-old male patient’s room. “She immediately recognized the handwriting as belonging to Bianca Nicole Johnson,” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Elizabeth Killeen in court. The two-page, sexually explicit letter was entered as evidence, but her attorney argued for it to be removed from the case’s permanent file.

Former Whisper Ridge administrator Bianca Johnson pled guilty to attempted carnal knowledge of a minor, based on a sexually explicit letter meant for a 15-year-old in her care.

Johnson, at the time the facility’s director of operations, denied authoring the letter, saying she only recopied it for another employee because the boy couldn’t read cursive. She later admitted to writing the letter, but said she intended it only as a masturbatory tool and never had contact with the teen. “The Commonwealth cannot establish that Ms. Johnson had face-to-face romantic contact with him,” Killeen said.

But more than a year went by before authorities learned of the incident. It wasn’t made known to Child Protective Services or police until 2006, when Whisper Ridge was under investigation for other allegations.

While police were searching Whisper Ridge for evidence, they found the note in a file cabinet belonging to Melissa Pohl Sargeant, an employee currently under indictment for failing to report abuse.

Another Whisper Ridge employee, Bryan Antwann Vaughan, currently faces charges of inappropriate touching and sex with female residents. That case ended in a hung jury in March.

Judge Edward L. Hogshire called it a “troubling case” featuring “outrageous behavior,” but said Johnson is “an extremely talented young woman with a very bright future.” She holds a bachelor’s degree and has worked toward a master’s degree. In a statement to the court, Johnson said working at Whisper Ridge was “a life-changing experience.”

Johnson’s charge was reduced from custodial sexual abuse to attempted carnal knowledge of a minor, which carries a sentence of up to five years. She was sentenced to three years with all active time suspended, and will be on probation for 12 months. Johnson must also register as a nonviolent sex offender.

“The Commonwealth doesn’t want to suggest that that’s the going rate for situations of this nature,” said Killeen, “but we have our own set of problems.” The victim in the case was uncooperative and is currently under indictment as an adult in city Circuit Court for robbery charges. The now-17-year-old has also previously been brought up on drug charges for possessing 26 grams of cocaine.

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