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New acting prosecutor has handled homicides, domestic violence cases - Ocean City Sentinel: News

New acting prosecutor has handled homicides, domestic violence cases

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Posted: Wednesday, October 4, 2017 4:40 pm

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie and Attorney General Christopher Porrino announced the appointment of Robert W. Johnson as acting Cape May County prosecutor. 

Johnson replaces Prosecutor Robert Taylor, who served as Cape May County Prosecutor since Oct. 1, 2004, and retired Sept. 29, the same day Johnson was sworn into office. 

Johnson has served as first assistant Cape May County prosecutor since 2012.

“I am extremely honored to be given the opportunity to serve as acting county prosecutor for the County of Cape May,” Johnson said. “I believe my 25 years of experience as an assistant prosecutor has made me uniquely qualified to do this job well. I would like to thank Prosecutor Taylor for his hard work and dedication to this office for the last 13 years. Due to his efforts, I take over an office that has a highly trained and experienced staff that I’m sure will continue to handle the daily administration of criminal justice in a fair and professional manner.”

Johnson is a lifelong resident of Cape May County who graduated from Wildwood High School. He graduated from Montclair State College with a B.A. in political science in 1987. 

He received his juris doctor law degree in 1991 from  the University of Dayton. 

In 1992, Johnson was hired as an assistant prosecutor with the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office. He served as the domestic violence prosecutor from 1992 to 1994. He also served in a succession of supervisory and leadership positions and was assigned as the supervising assistant prosecutor for the Cape May County Drug Task Force from 1994 to 2001. 

In 2001, he was promoted to chief assistant prosecutor in charge of the trial section of the office.

In 2012, Johnson was promoted to first assistant prosecutor. 

During his tenure, he has handled many of the office’s homicide prosecutions. He was the trial prosecutor in the case of State v. Jessie Watkins. 

The Watkins matter was a cold-case homicide investigation that went unsolved for 19 years. The defendant, Jessie Watkins, was convicted in 2007 of killing his cousin Craig White. Watkins is currently serving a 45-year state prison sentence for the murder conviction. Additionally, in 2006, Johnson tried and convicted Gerald Daniels of the killing of Wallace Savitz, who was stabbed 157 times during his murder. Daniels is currently serving a life sentence for his murder conviction. In 2013, Johnson tried and convicted Alberto Martinez for the murder of Vincent DeSarlo. Martinez is currently serving a 50-year state prison sentence. 

Johnson appeared before the New Jersey Supreme Court in the matter of Stave v Wade in 2001. In the case, Johnson successfully argued to the New Jersey Supreme Court that the crime of vehicular homicide should receive the same mandatory sentences as other forms of homicide, which require that the No Early Release Act (NERA) be applied to the defender’s sentence. In addition to his new administrative responsibilities as head of the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, Johnson is currently the assigned prosecutor in three active homicide prosecutions.

“With a quarter century of experience in the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, prosecuting high-profile cases and serving in top supervisory roles, Rob Johnson will be an excellent leader for the office,” Christie said. “We thank Robert Taylor for his 13 years of distinguished leadership as county prosecutor.”

 

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