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Firefighter pleads not guilty

State’s attorney says her office will continue to prosecute

Published: Friday, April 18, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014 9:03 a.m. CDT
Philip D. Johannsen

STERLING – A Sterling firefighter accused of sexually abusing a girl has pleaded not guilty.

According to court documents, Philip D. Johannsen fondled and kissed the girl in early April.

He appeared in court Wednesday to enter his plea, represented by one of his attorneys, James Fagerman.

Johannsen, 37, is charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse and is in Whiteside County Jail on a $300,000 bond.

Unlike in two other criminal cases involving public safety employees, Whiteside County State’s Attorney Trish Joyce said Thursday that her office will prosecute Johannsen.

Joyce explained that, for example, in the case of a Sterling police detective who pleaded guilty in January to battery after being involved in a bar fight, she felt it would be inappropriate for her office to prosecute him because the state’s attorney’s office works closely with the police department in court. That’s not the case when it comes to firefighters, she said, who are rarely – if ever – used as witnesses on behalf of the state in court.

In the case of the Sterling detective, Joyce handed the case off to Tom Brown, who works for the state as an appellate prosecutor. She did the same in the matter of a former Whiteside County probation officer accused of soliciting oral sex from a man who was under his probational supervision.

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