Former England footballer Adam Johnson has been told he will receive a “substantial prison sentence” after he was found guilty of sexual activity with a besotted 15-year-old fan.
His teenage victim said she felt “so broken” after her idol was found guilty of one count of sexual activity with a child at Bradford Crown Court and cleared of another.
Johnson, 28, was given bail by Judge Jonathan Rose, who warned him: “You must understand that when you return here at the end of March you will receive a substantial prison sentence.”
Justifying giving him bail, the judge said: “You can say goodbye to your daughter. A prison sentence will mean you will not see her for some time.”
Johnson showed no obvious emotion as the jury returned its verdicts. He had already admitted a less serious charge of sexual activity with the teenager and also grooming her over social media.
All the charges relate to an incident in the former Sunderland winger’s Range Rover when he met up with the girl in County Durham on January 30 last year.
In a statement read by a police officer outside court, the teenager, who cannot be identified, said: “I felt used and let down by him.
“It’s been the hardest year of my life and I’ve had to face so much abuse after he claimed his innocence.”
She added: “There have been times when I’ve tried not to show people how upset I am, but sometimes it hasn’t been possible and I’d just cry. I’ve felt so broken.”
The jury of eight women and four men has heard how Johnson began exchanging hundreds of messages with the girl on social media at New Year 2015. He eventually agreed to meet her to sign football shirts.
But it was when they met for a second time that he asked for his “thank you kiss”.
Johnson admitted kissing the girl but denied any further sexual activity. The girl told the jury how the player digitally penetrated her after putting his hands down her pants and that she then gave him oral sex.
The jury cleared Johnson of the count relating to oral sex but found him guilty on a majority of 10-2 on the count relating to the digital penetration.
Johnson, who played for England 12 times, left court in chaotic scenes as police officers were reading out statements to the media. There were scuffles involving police, Johnson’s entourage and photographers.
His ex-girlfriend, Stacey Flounders, followed some distance behind, closely protected by a police officer.
Earlier, Judge Rose told the player – who was earning £60,000-a-week until he was sacked by Sunderland after his guilty pleas – that he was granting him bail but he should be under “no illusion” that he would be jailed when he sentenced later this month.
Just before he left the dock, the judge told Johnson that being released on bail meant he could get his “affairs in order”.
Explaining his bail conditions, the judge said Johnson would be “well advised to stay well away from social media”.
The judge said his preliminary view was that the case falls into the category of a five-year prison sentence with a possible range of four to 10 years.
Speaking in the rain outside Bradford Crown Court, Detective Inspector Aelfwynn Sampson said: “In this football-obsessed region he was idolised by thousands.
“However, Johnson exploited his position as a local hero to take advantage of a young and impressionable girl.
“This was not a case where he didn’t know how old a girl was. From the start of their contact, he knew full well that she had just turned 15 and yet this did not stop him.
“The law is clear. The legal age of consent is set at 16 to protect young people.”
In a statement issued after the case, Sunderland FC said it “refuted” any suggestion the club knew all along that Johnson was intending to change his plea just before his trial so he could continue to play for them, and that the club may have been involved in tactical discussions about the plea.
The club said it was not advised in advance that Johnson would plead guilty to any offence.
“Had the club known that Mr Johnson intended to plead guilty to any of these charges, then his employment would have been terminated immediately,” the statement said.
Johnson, of Castle Eden, County Durham, was bailed to be sentenced at a date to be fixed, before the end of March. He was bailed on condition he lived at his home address and did not contact witnesses.
The player was also ordered to observe a 7pm to 7am curfew.
Here is the full statement from Sunderland Football Club after former player Adam Johnson was convicted of one count of sexual activity with a child:
“To respect the legal process, Sunderland AFC was unable to comment on this case until after the jury had delivered its verdict. It has now done so and we thank our supporters for their patience and understanding. We now wish to clarify certain matters which arose during the trial.
“Mr Johnson was suspended by the club immediately following his arrest on March 2, 2015. At that time, the club was advised by police of the broad nature of the allegations against Mr
Johnson, who was being advised at all times by his own legal team. The club felt that the decision to suspend was appropriate at that time, even though he had not then been charged with any offence.
“Two weeks later, his suspension was lifted after a meeting between the club and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), and after the club took independent legal advice. The club reached this decision only after carrying out a safeguarding assessment and liaising with relevant agencies.
“On 23 April 2015, Mr Johnson was charged with four offences. The club was informed that it was Mr Johnson’s intention to defend all the charges, a stance he maintained right up until the first day of trial. The club continued to review the safeguarding procedures it had put in place throughout this time.
“On 4 May 2015, an introductory meeting took place between Mr Johnson, his father and Orlando Pownall QC. Mr Pownall had not previously met Mr Johnson. The club’s CEO was present during part of that meeting.
“During the time that she was present there was no suggestion whatsoever that Mr Johnson would be changing his plea. Some documents were received relating to the case, which were immediately sent to Mr Pownall for his attention. However, the club was not in a position to make any judgment on the outcome of the case nor on Mr Johnson’s decision to defend all the allegations.
“Following that meeting, Mr Johnson again confirmed to the club, presumably on advice from his own legal team, that his intention was to defend the charges in their entirety and he was confident of success once all evidence had been considered. He subsequently entered not guilty pleas to all charges on 6 June 2015.
“The club did not give evidence either for the prosecution or the defence in this case. It was therefore not present in court when it is understood that a suggestion was made that the club knew all along that Mr Johnson was intending to change his plea just before trial to enable him to continue to play football for the club and that the club may also have been involved in tactical discussions about the plea.
“This is utterly without foundation and is refuted in the strongest possible terms. The club never placed any pressure or demands on Mr Johnson to play football during this process. Decisions in relation to the pleas and the conduct of the trial have been left entirely to Mr Johnson and his highly experienced and skilled legal team. Mr Johnson has admitted in evidence that he changed his plea ‘on legal advice’.
“The club only became aware of the change of plea, in relation to two of the four counts on the indictment, on the first day of the trial, after hearing it reported through the media. The club was not advised in advance that Mr Johnson would plead guilty to any offence. Had the club known that Mr Johnson intended to plead guilty to any of these charges, then his employment would have been terminated immediately.
“Indeed, upon learning of the guilty plea on 11 February 2016, the club acted quickly and decisively in terminating Adam Johnson’s contract without notice.
“This has been an extremely difficult time for all involved. The victim and her family have endured an unimaginable ordeal in the last 12 months and we trust that they will now be allowed to move on with their lives without further intrusion or public scrutiny.
“Following the announcement of today’s verdict and the release of this detailed statement, the club intends to make no further comment.”