MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Black man whose arrest triggered a violent protest in Madison will plead guilty to extorting a local business in a deal with federal prosecutors.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported Friday that 29-year-old Devonere Johnson has agreed to plead guilty to one of two extortion counts. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop the other count and recommend a sentence of time-served and two years on supervised release. Each count carries a maximum 20-year sentence.
Johnson had been in jail since he was arrested in June. On Oct. 1, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker released him to 24-hour house arrest pending trial.
No date for a plea hearing has been set.
Johnson was arrested on June 23 outside The Coopers Tavern on the state Capitol square. According to state and federal court documents, he had threatened the owners of that tavern and the owner of another bar on State Street.
Brandishing a baseball bat and a portable stereo, Johnson and another man went into The Coopers Tavern on June 22 and demanded the owner give him money through Venmo or he would smash the tavern’s windows.
That same day he and another man visited the State Street bar with the stereo and were escorted out by police. He returned to the bar the next day with the same man and another, complained about how he was treated the day before and demanded free food and beer to make up for it. He suggested he would have protesters burn the place down if the owners didn’t comply, saying police let protesters do what they want.
Downtown Madison was in the midst of a series of protests over George Floyd’s death at the time. Floyd, who was Black, died on Memorial Day after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck for nearly eight minutes.
Johnson’s arrest spurred a protest that night that turned violent, with demonstrators pulling down two statutes outside the Capitol and assaulting a state senator on the Capitol lawn.
Johnson still faces a state charge of threatening to injure or accuse a person of a crime, as do the two other men, Gregg James and William Shanley.