Second gold thief pleads guilty in Siskiyou Court

David Smith, GateHouse California
David Dean Johnson

Moments before facing a jury of his peers Wednesday, June 25, suspected gold thief David Dean Johnson opted instead to plead guilty to every charge against him.

Johnson was facing a trial on charges related to the 2012 burglary of the Siskiyou County Courthouse and theft of over $1.2 million in gold from a historic gold display.

Before the jury could be ushered into the courtroom, Johnson’s attorney, Howard Williams, said that Johnson would be pleading guilty to all charges.

Johnson admitted that the facts as presented in the preliminary hearing were true, from the commitment of second degree commercial burglary to the petty theft of a court employee’s flavored vitamin water.

He admitted that he engaged in the burglary with a second suspect, Scott Wayne Bailey – who pleaded guilty to the crime last year – as well as conspiracy to commit a crime.

Judge William Davis led Johnson through the admitted acts that defined the conspiracy to commit the crime, from obtaining tools to break into the gold case to the purchase of gloves and masks to hide their identities.

Johnson admitted to breaking into the courthouse technical information room and janitor’s closet to leave a window open for entry into the building that night of Feb. 2, 2012.

Davis told Johnson that since his was a straight plea and not a plea bargain, he does not have any assurances from the court as to what sentence he will receive.

Facing a maximum of 8 years and 10 months in prison, Johnson will be present for a sentencing hearing Aug. 1 at 8:30 a.m.

At that time, the defense and prosecution will present arguments regarding the length of the sentence and what restitution will be ordered.

Responding to a question from a juror, Davis said thus far, none of the gold has been found, but indicated that if it were returned the act could play a role during the sentencing.

After the aborted trial, Sheriff Jon Lopey said, “This was a long and arduous investigative effort and we are grateful for the professionalism and hard work which exemplified the efforts of so many that contributed to the successful investigation and prosecution of Mr. Bailey and Mr. Johnson.”

Lopey also commended District Attorney Kirk Andrus and Deputy District Attorney John Quinn, the prosecutor in the case, for their work, as well as numerous detectives, officers and technicians within his own department.

“Part of our heritage and history was taken from us and we still have work to do in finding the gold that was stolen,” Lopey said. “The gold is still out there somewhere and we’d like to find it.” 

Andrus said the case against Johnson was “exceptionally strong and well-prepared” and statistically, Johnson “was the only person who has ever lived or will ever live on the earth whose DNA was on the evidence found in the courthouse.”

Andrus commended Detective Yves Pike’s work to identify Johnson and Bailey by following small amounts of gold that were converted to cash after the crime was committed.

“Because of the monumental intrusion into the rights of all Siskiyou County citizens, who were the owners of the gold, we will demand that he be sentenced to the maximum possible sentence,” Andrus said.

He added that his office will ask in the restitution hearing that Johnson be held liable for the full amount of loss from the crime.

“We will hopefully forget the names of these criminals after that,” Andrus said, “but we will never forget what they stole or allow this loss to dampen our feelings about our proud frontier heritage or the rugged forefathers who left us cultural gems that will outlast these stolen minerals.”