Men speak out about former Lowville teacher who allegedly sexually abused them 40 years ago

Men speak out about former Lowville teacher who allegedly sexually abused them 40 years ago

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Two men are speaking out about surviving sexual abuse as teens back in the 1970s and early 80s - allegedly at the hands of a former Lowville school teacher and church choir director.

We reported last week that a lawsuit was filed in State Supreme Court, stating A. Ronald Johnson had sexual contact with a student 40 years ago.

Because of our report, a second alleged victim has come forward and a second lawsuit has been filed. (See the lawsuit at the end of this story).

7 News spoke with both of the plaintiffs Tuesday. We’re referring to them as Plaintiff 1 and Plaintiff 2 to protect their identities.

"A lot of people have been asking, 'Why now? Why now?' I do not want to be complicit in Ron Johnson's abuse of anyone else. So that is why I'm speaking up," said Plaintiff 1.

It was the 1979 in Lowville. Plaintiff 1 says he came from a poor family, was confused about his sexuality and vulnerable.

He met Johnson, a teacher at Lowville High School and a choir director at Lowville United Methodist Church. Plaintiff 1 saw him as a role model.

But then things changed.

"Very gradually, but also very quickly - within months - he began sexual abuse," said Plaintiff 1.

Plaintiff 1 says Johnson sexually assaulted him for the next 3 years - at the church, at the school and at other places. He says sometimes the abuse would happen 2 to 3 times a week. He kept it a secret - a secret that plagued him for decades.

"I've been diagnosed with depression, anxiety attacks, PTSD. I have nightmares where I wake up screaming in the middle of the night," said Plaintiff 1.

Nightmares - something Plaintiff 2 understands all too well.

"I have woke up screaming more times than I could ever tell you," said Plaintiff 2.

In the mid-1970s, Plaintiff 2 was poor, his dad had passed away and he desperately wanted a father figure.

He met Johnson at school when he tried out for a musical.

Plaintiff 2 says he and Johnson became close to the point that Johnson and his wife even offered to adopt him.

Then, one day, Plaintiff 2 was sick at home. He says Johnson came to visit him and molested him.

When Plaintiff 2 resisted, he says Johnson smacked him.

“I couldn’t believe it because it was so out of his nature. It was like Jekyll and Hyde. It was like I saw a different side to him,” said Plaintiff 2.

Plaintiff 2 says he told his guidance counselor and a trusted teacher about the molestation. He says they both blamed him because he spent so much time with Johnson.

"That day there was a part of me that died...an innocence that died, a respect for adults that died," said Plaintiff 2.

The plaintiffs, who never knew the other existed until last week, are now united in their quest to hold Johnson accountable and to make sure he never has access to children again.

As for the lawsuits, Jason Frament, the attorney handling the case, says Johnson is now being added as a defendant.

“The bottom line is the goal that both of these plaintiffs have is they don’t want him to do this to anybody else and they want to be heard. We understand that he possibly has access to other children through his involvement in a church in Cooperstown, New York,” said Frament.

Frament also says he has heard from other alleged victims who may or may not join the lawsuit.

7 News reached out to Johnson for comment, but he hung up on us. Last week when we spoke with him, he denied the allegations.

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