EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 19, 2009

Herald reporter charged with assaulting 74-year-old man

Paul Tennant and Katie Curley

GROVELAND — A Boston Herald crime reporter is charged with kicking an elderly man with emphysema in the chest at a local laundromat, police said.

O'Ryan Johnson, 33, of 293 E St., South Boston, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a shod foot, on a person over the age of 65.

Witnesses told police that Johnson asked for help with a washing machine at Classic Cleaners Laundromat at 4 Elm St. Tuesday afternoon. When Kent White, 74, of Georgetown approached to help, witnesses said words were exchanged and Johnson began swearing at the elderly man.

Johnson then kicked the 5 foot 6 inch, 130-pound victim in the chest, witnesses told police.

"The victim doesn't remember what he said and then Johnson started swearing at him," Deputy police Chief Jeff Gillen said. "The victim backed away and Johnson ran at him, kicking him in the chest."

Gillen said the attack was especially brutal considering White's size and lack of threat to Johnson. Johnson is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds, according to court records. Johnson, a former Eagle-Tribune reporter, recently wrote a story for the Boston Herald about his experience as an amateur boxer.

"He just got really angry," Gillen said. "The victim went to the hospital with severe pain and bruising in the chest area."

Witnesses said Johnson had a 3- to 5-year-old girl with him at the time and exited out a back door. White left the laundromat and drove to the police station to report the incident.

Police obtained Johnson's licence plate number from a witness who saw him return to pick up his clothing about 5 p.m. Working with the Registry of Motor Vehicles, police obtained a photo of Johnson and White identified him as the man who kicked him in the chest, according to the court document.

Groveland police obtained a warrant for Johnson's arrest and notified other departments. Johnson turned himself in at Haverhill District Court yesterday.

The case has been continued until July 23. Johnson was released on personal recognizance.

He recently wrote in the Boston Herald about his trials as an amateur boxer. His profile picture on his Facebook page yesterday afternoon showed Johnson in boxing gear punching another man in the face. Last night, the picture had been changed to a picture of Johnson giving a piggyback ride to a young girl.

Johnson was working at the Herald last night, but would not say much about his case.

"I am not commenting on advice of counsel," Johnson said.