All seemed normal on the surface at Wellesley High School’s track meet vs. Norwood on Thursday afternoon, as student-athletes competed, spectators enjoyed getting a break from the rain and school officials gave friendly greetings. But sadly, things were anything but normal on this day.
Just as the meet was ending, the Wellesley Public School system issued an announcement by email that it had dismissed Walter Johnson, who has served as Wellesley High’s girls’ cross country coach and an assistant indoor/outdoor track coach (working mainly with jumpers) in recent years. The fact that Johnson wasn’t at the meet was unusual, but no cause for alarm. What was alarming is that the school’s action followed a revelation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that the 69-year-old Framingham resident had been arrested and charged earlier in the day with one count of distribution and one count of possession of child pornography.
Following the disclosure, TV news vans descended on Wellesley High School, soliciting reactions of astonishment from random people in the area to air on their evening broadcasts. Wellesley Police made their presence felt at WHS on Friday morning to ensure news outfits didn’t impede learning.
The school system isn’t sharing much more information during this investigation period, but Superintendent David Lussier says WPS will keep the community updated. In addition to his coaching duties, Johnson had served as a special education teaching assistant at Wellesley Middle School from 2007 to 2015. He was known as a soft-spoken coach, often barely audible when making remarks at sports banquets.
Lussier emphasized that all Wellesley High employees, including Johnson, are fingerprinted and CORI checked before being hired. Johnson had no prior criminal record. He served as a cross country and track coach at Harvard University from the early 1980s until 2006, and taught English at Wayland High School in the 1970s and 1980s, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Anyone with relevant information or questions about investigation can call 617-748-3274, a number established by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler scheduled a detention and probable cause hearing for May 1.
According to the charging document, in January 2017, federal agents began an investigation into child pornography being traded by a Craigslist user. The investigation led to Johnson, whose home was searched today. According to one report, an investigation into a police sergeant’s conduct led to Johnson’s alleged involvement.
The charge of distribution of child pornography provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine $250,000. The charge of possession of child pornography provides for a sentence of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine $250,000.