Prison unlikely for Walker, prosecutor says
A Mesa County prosecutor said Friday that a prison sentence is unlikely for former Grand Junction High School administrator Johnnie Walker, who must register as a sex offender and potentially remain under state supervision for the rest of his life.
“I don’t view this case as a situation where he has to go to prison in order for society to be protected,” Deputy District Attorney David Waite said. “But certainly that’s one option the court has.”
Waite, who led Walker’s prosecution, said Friday that he hasn’t decided exactly what he’ll ask for when Walker is sentenced on Dec. 7 by District Judge Thomas Deister.
Walker, 51, faces a possible minimum sentence of 10 years to life on probation after a jury Friday returned guilty verdicts on felony counts of attempted Internet luring of a child, and attempted child enticement.
Separate from the felonies, the jury also found that Walker in March 2007 engaged in sexually explicit Internet chat with a person he believed to be a 14-year-old girl for the specific purpose of sexual contact.
Walker sat stone-faced Friday as the judge read the verdict around 12:30 p.m.; five friends and family members of Walker’s along with eight deputy prosecutors sat in on the verdict.
Walker, who had been free on bond, was ordered jailed by Deister because Walker’s defense attorney had not filed with Deister a consent of surety, a document that would have allowed Walker to remain free before sentencing.
Mesa County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said Walker was kept in a holding cell at the Mesa County Justice Center before he was released about 10 minutes after the documents were presented to the judge.
An employee of Mesa County School District 51 for 17 years, Walker was arrested in April 2007 by Grand Junction police for using a school computer to have Internet chats with “Heather,” who claimed to be a 14-year-old from Colorado Springs.
“Heather” was Jason Steitle, a teacher in San Antonio, Texas, who testified on Tuesday.
Walker resigned in late April 2007 — he was paid more than $26,000 in a severance package crafted by School District 51 — after he was formally charged.
Waite declined Friday to offer personal opinions about Walker, but took aim at Walker’s defense strategy.
“I think pulling his ex-girlfriend into this was offensive, and attacking Jason Steitle, who really was out trying to do something good, was also kind of offensive,” Waite said.
Walker’s defense argued he believed he was chatting in March 2007 with an ex-girlfriend. In a phone conversation recorded by police, Walker told his ex-girlfriend he believed she was using a fake identity online so she could meet other men.
Walker’s lawyer, Colleen Scissors, also questioned Steitle’s motives for engaging Walker online, telling jurors he had no formal training in Internet sting investigations. Scissors said Friday that she expects to file an appeal of Walker’s conviction.