Florida Keys

A man accused of stealing a gold bar from Keys museum has a dark past, feds say

Richard Steven Johnson was captured on security video at the museum the day the gold bar was stolen.
Richard Steven Johnson was captured on security video at the museum the day the gold bar was stolen.

One of two men charged with stealing a gold bar worth more than a half-million dollars has a dark criminal past, federal prosecutors said.

Richard Steven Johnson, 41, of Rio Linda, California, has a 1996 manslaughter conviction for shaking his 6-month-old son to death in St. Paul, Minnesota, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Johnson remains jailed while his co-defendant, Jarred Alexander Goldman, was released after posting a $100,000 personal surety bond and 10 percent cash of a $35,000 bond, according to federal court records.

The two are charged with theft of major artwork and conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States after they allegedly swiped the 17th century gold bar from the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum, 200 Greene St., in 2010.

Johnson wants the same bond deal as Goldman, his lawyers say. He promises to stay with his wife and mother-in-law in West Palm Beach and has agreed to GPS monitoring.

Federal prosecutors responded to the bond reduction request by detailing Johnson’s criminal history, including the manslaughter case that began as a second-degree murder charge. They want him in custody until the trial, which is set for May 14 at U.S. District Court in Key West.

Johnson, who was 19 in 1996, admitted to the killing and was sentenced to nine years and four months in prison. He was released in August 2003, Minnesota prison records show.

The baby, Anthony M. Johnson, died of internal injuries.

Johnson told police the boy would not stop crying.

The number one reason parents or caregivers shake a baby is because the child is crying. This can cause damage and injury to the child’s brain or spinal cord, so it’s important to understand the dangers of shaken baby syndrome, or SBS.

Homicide investigators noticed bruises on the child's abdomen, chin, cheek and forehead. There also was a bruise and a bite mark on the baby's left leg, which Johnson told investigators he put there after finding the baby cold and not breathing, the Star Tribune reported in 1996.

This and other prior convictions and arrests are enough to keep him from getting a bond reduction, says the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which also calls him a flight risk since he allegedly fled to Las Vegas from Florida after the gold bar was stolen.

Then there’s the evidence against him, prosecutors said.

“The evidence against the defendant is overwhelming and includes a fingerprint on the gold bar case, statements of the co-defendant and a video of the theft,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Marcet in opposition to Johnson’s request for a lower bond.

Johnson has prior convictions for forgery, financial transaction card fraud and damage to property. In 1996, before he killed his son, he was arrested for assault but the charges were dropped.

Johnson’s attorneys say the weight of the evidence is the least significant factor in whether he is granted a bond since he is presumed innocent at this time.

The Miami Police Department is looking for at least seven men accused of stealing a number of motorcycles from Downtown Towing on Jan. 15, 2018.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen