Former England footballer Adam Johnson has been sentenced to six years in prison after he was found guilty of sexual activity with a 15-year-old fan and grooming the teenager.
Johnson, 28, admitted kissing the girl in his car in County Durham on Jan. 30 last year and grooming her with hundreds of social media messages, but he was found not guilty of a third charge of sexual activity with a child, relating to the same girl.
Judge Jonathan Rose, in sentencing Johnson, said: “This will be your first prison sentence, this is all entirely your fault. There is an abuse of trust, you are trusted by young fans to behave properly.”
The judge said the victim had been a Sunderland fan who would wait after matches to take pictures of her “favourite player,” Johnson, who had known her age.
He said: “That was known to you — to put it another way she had only just turned 15 when you began grooming her, because as you were to admit you found her sexually attractive. You made a deliberate decision to engage in sexual activity with this young girl, no doubt in the expectation that you would get away with it.”
Judge Rose told him that he had “every opportunity” to enter guilty pleas to the charges he finally admitted.
Johnson’s defence team said that the Football Association had stripped Johnson of his 12 England caps, but the BBC and other outlets reported this was a false claim.
After the former Sunderland winger was found guilty of a serious charge of sexual activity with the teenager, the judge had told him he should expect to receive a substantial prison sentence.
The jury had heard how Johnson, who played for England 12 times, 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 during a second meeting, after he inquired about a “thank you kiss,” that the sexual activity happened.
Sunderland terminated Johnson’s contract on Feb. 11, shortly after his guilty plea on two charges was entered. After the verdict was returned, the club issued a statement denying they had known that he would change his plea from not guilty.
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.