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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Tennessee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 8, 2018

West Virginia Residents Indicted for Kidnapping and Firearms Offenses Committed in Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On October 16, 2018, a federal grand jury in Knoxville returned a 16-count superseding indictment against Josh Small, 51, of  Princeton, West Virginia, and Joni Amber Johnson, 35, of Princeton, West Virginia, charging them with kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, using firearms during crimes of violence, and being felons in possession of firearms.  Both appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Poplin in U.S. District Court on November 6, 2018, and pleaded not guilty to the charges included in the indictment. 

Trial is set for April 30, 2018, in U.S. District Court.  If convicted, Small faces 97 years in mandatory minimum sentences for the firearms-related charges and up to life in prison for each kidnapping charge.  Johnson faces 82 years in mandatory minimum sentences for the firearms charges, plus an additional 10 years for each felon in possession charge and up to life in prison for each of the kidnapping charges.

Details of the charges against Small and Johnson are contained in the indictment, which is on file with the U.S. District Court and available to the public.  According to the indictment, Small worked for a family member on small paving jobs, such as paving or repaving driveways, for single-family households in Tennessee.  The customers were often retirees and the elderly who paid cash for the work.  After returning to West Virginia from Tennessee following the paving work, Small traveled back to Tennessee with Johnson where they committed home invasions of elderly Tennessee residents, including some for which paving work had been done.  The residents were confined to their own homes where Small and Johnson allegedly tied them up, held them at gunpoint and stole their valuables, which they later sold to pawn shops in West Virginia.  In addition to the offenses committed in Tennessee, the indictment also alleges a conspiracy to commit similar crimes in Virginia and West Virginia.

Agencies whose investigation led to the indictment of Small and Johnson include the FBI, Giles County Sheriff's Office in Virginia; Carroll County Sheriff's Office in Virginia; Montgomery County Sheriff's Office in Virginia; Bland County Sheriff's Office in Virginia; Virginia State Police; Mercer County Sheriff's Department in West Virginia; Campbell County Sheriff's Office in Tennessee; and, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office in Tennessee.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy Stone and Cynthia Davidson will represent the United States in court proceedings.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment constitutes only charges and that every person is presumed innocent until his or her guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.  

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Topic(s): 
Elder Justice
Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Contact: 
Sharry Dedman-Beard Public Information Officer 865.225.1671 sharry.dedman-beard@usdoj.gov
Updated November 9, 2018