HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) – Attorneys for an embattled ex Huntington University track coach are seeking a change of venue for his looming sexual battery trial, according to a motion filed late last week in Huntington Superior Court.
Nicholas Edward Johnson, 33, is unable to receive a fair trial in Huntington County for a number of reasons, including publicity surrounding a lawsuit involving he and his wife as well as a previous criminal conviction that sparked outrage from the public, one of his lawyers wrote in a motion to the court.
Currently, Johnson is facing a felony count of sexual battery and is named in a lawsuit in which former Huntington athletes accuse him of sexual assault, rape and illegally supplying them with performance enhancing drugs.
The lawsuit also implicates his wife and former Huntington University track standout, Lauren Johnson, claiming the couple ran an illegal doping scheme and that other administrators knew about the abuse going on in the school’s track and field program.
“The publicity surrounding Mr. Johnson’s previous cases, as well as publicity covering the instant case, has been vast, prejudicial, and has cast Mr. Johnson’s character in a poor light,” his attorneys wrote. “Frequent editorializing and widespread commentary on his character places his right to a fair and impartial trial by jury in great jeopardy, as his character is not relevant to the substance of the criminal charge he is currently facing.”
Previously, in 2020, Johnson was charged with two counts of child seduction, kidnapping and identity deception. In that case, he was accused of performing inappropriate medical procedures on a person between the ages of 16 and 18 years old, according to court documents.
Ultimately, Nicholas Johnson was convicted of identity deception and served 30 days in jail and two years of home detention. He was terminated as the coach of Huntington University.
His attorneys cited that case as well as his sentence as factors that his current case should be moved somewhere else.
“The disposition of this previous criminal case in Huntington County sparked public ire due to perceived leniency in the outcome,” Johnson’s motion said. “This public ire was further inflamed by the allegations made within the initial pleadings of a civil case involving Mr. Johnson. The inflammatory nature of the publicity surrounding these two previous cases was largely due to the attention placed on Mr. Johnson’s character.”
Although his character is not relevant to the instant allegations, this preexisting inflammatory publicity puts Mr. Johnson’s right to a fair and impartial trial by jury in great jeopardy,” the motion continued.
Details of the sexual battery accusations against Johnson have not been outlined in currently available court documents.
The IndyStar, however, reported at the time charges were filed Johnson had been accused of posing as an official with the University of Oregon to arrange a recruiting trip with a female athlete.
He brought the teen to motels in Oregon for a weekend, where he slept and showered with her, according to the IndyStar.
Johnson is scheduled to be in court for a pretrial conference on May 9.