VALDOSTA — A jury convicted Kendrick Johnson’s parents and five other family members of interfering with government property Wednesday, and they received a suspended sentence.
After approximately an hour of deliberation, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson and five immediate family members were found guilty by a six-person jury of the misdemeanor charges in connection with a April 2013 protest at the Lowndes County Judicial Center.
Each of the defendants was convicted of blocking access to the main entrance to the public building and blocking access to the judicial wing hallway.
State Court Judge Mark Mitchell sentenced each family member to 12 months in jail but suspended the sentence. The defendants will not be placed under probation or required to pay fines, but they could face a year in jail if they are arrested again for a similar offense.
The April 2013 protest was designed to push authorities to speed up the release of information concerning the death of Kendrick Johnson, according to trial testimony.
Johnson was found dead upside down in a vertically stored gym mat at Lowndes High School in January 2013. A state autopsy, which was released a week after the protest, ruled the 17-year-old’s death accidental. The Johnson family insists their son died of foul play.
In his closing statements, Johnson family attorney Chevene King characterized his clients’ actions as justified civil disobedience.
Assistant Solicitor General Matthew Brown prosecuted the case and told the jury in his closing remarks that he believed the defendants crossed the line during their protest when they prevented citizens from entering the judicial complex.
“That’s not civil disobedience. That’s breaking the law,” said Brown.
King did not indicate in open court if he would seek an appeal for his clients.