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Crime

Wis. Billionaire Charged With Child Sex Assault

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(credit: CBS)

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RACINE, Wis. (AP) — A billionaire executive whose family has run SC Johnson for five generations was charged Thursday with having sexual contact with a now 15-year-old girl over the course of several years.

Samuel Curtis Johnson III, who goes by Curt, faces a count of repeated sexual assault of a child. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Johnson, 55, is the former chairman of Sturtevant-based Diversey Inc., a cleaning-products company that was spun off from SC Johnson in the late 1990s. Privately held SC Johnson makes household products including Pledge, Glade, Windex and Ziploc.

Johnson resigned from Diversey’s board in February and was taking a leave of absence for personal reasons, the company said at the time.

Diversey spokesman John Matthews told The Associated Press on Thursday that Johnson had retired effective the end of March and that his leave of absence immediately removed him from any role with the company. Johnson was replaced by his sister.

The criminal complaint accuses Johnson of having inappropriate sexual contact with the girl 15 to 20 times, starting in the summer after she finished sixth grade. The girl told investigators that Johnson exposed himself, fondled her under her clothes and kissed her breasts and elsewhere.

The girl’s voice cracked and she began to cry as she described Johnson as having a “sex addiction” and “touching problem,” according to the partially redacted complaint.

Prosecutors said the girl confided about the abuse to her mother, who confronted Johnson. He allegedly admitted to fondling the girl’s breasts and repeatedly apologized for his behavior.

Johnson’s cash bail was set at $500,000. Messages left with both of Johnson’s lawyers were not immediately returned.

Family spokesman Harlan Loeb said Johnson is married with three children.

“Obviously this is a personal matter for Curt,” Loeb said. “Allegations of this nature are always deeply disturbing. The family is distraught and very much hopes for the best for everyone involved.”

Johnson’s brother is the chairman and chief executive of SC Johnson, based in Racine. Company spokeswoman Kelly Semrau said Johnson had worked for the company as a general manager and in other roles in the 1980s and early 1990s but had no formal relationship with the company in almost 15 years.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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