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Sexual Abuse Hearing

October 29, 2003, 9:49 PM by Cindy Davis

A Pennington County rodeo man, known for giving children horseback riding lessons, is suspected of 2-decades of sexual abuse. 60-year-old Lyle "Swede" Johnson is accused of the rape and sexual assault of 2 teenage boys from 1996 until 2001.

The sole purpose of Wednesday's hearing is for prosecutors to show a judge that Lyle Johnson has been sexually molesting young boys as far back as the 1970's.

Lyle Johnson sat in court this morning and listened as his own stepson, and a man who thought of him as role model, accused him of touching, and performing oral sex on them.

Deputy State's Attorney, Tracey Dollison says, "Obviously, Mr. Johnson is innocent until proven guilty, but anyone convicted of this crime is considered by the states attorney's office to be a danger."

According to today's testimony, it was in the mid 70's, when Johnson, who's also known as Swede, first sexually touched his own stepson who was 10 or 11 at the time. The man who's now an adult says, Swede would often come into his room in the middle of the night, and fondle him. The man says Swede would stop when he woke up and became upset.

Another witness who's now 31 years old, says he was 13 when he started working for Swede in 1986 at Hart Ranch near Rapid City. For fear of losing a job he loved, he never told anyone that Swede sexually touched him, and was expected to give and receive oral sex during a period of 3 years.

The crimes against the alleged victims happened so long ago, Johnson can't be charged with their sexual assault claims. But prosecutors hope the judge will let a jury hear their stories in a trial concerning more recent abuse.

Dollison says, "What we hope to show the jury is that this particular defendant exercised a common plan or scheme that has gone on for many years, showing that he had a pattern of behavior that did not start with the most recent victims, and perhaps won't end with them either."

Johnson showed little reaction to today's testimony, even nodding in agreement at times. He sits in jail tonight on a million dollars bond.

Johnson's trial is set for mid-December. If convicted, Johnson faces a maximum of 95 years in prison.

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