Man wrongly labeled sex offender is cleared

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Buffalo man has spent years haunted by his own name, all because he shares the same name and birth date as a registered sex offender. But after speaking to News 4, he’s now got his good name back.

We first heard from John Johnson in February. He couldn’t find a job and was turned down for housing assistance because he was being confused with a sex offender. His situation seemed hopeless.

RELATED | Read our original report from February here

For years now, John L. Johnson, the father of five, has been wrongly labeled John C. Johnson, the sex offender.

After turning in dozens of job applications, John just couldn’t understand why no one would hire him.

“McDonald’s wouldn’t. They wouldn’t even hire me,” Johnson said.

He was turned down for job after job, and for Section 8 housing assistance. But the rejection letter from Belmont Housing Resources was a blessing in disguise because they were the first ones to give him the reason.

News 4 spoke to John in February, shortly after he learned he shares the same name and birth date with man who tried to rape a child, a man whose crime was popping up on the innocent John’s criminal background search.

“To be wrongly accused of being a sex offender is the worst,” John said in February.

It took time. But after News 4’s Lou Raguse contacted the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, they removed all traces of John C. Johnson from his background search. And they sent John a letter stating he’s not the same man as the sex offender.

John brought that letter to his most important job interview in years.

“That is exactly what got him in,” said Diane Bieneik, CNA Training Instructor for the McGuire Group.

“I showed her the letter. And she was like, ‘Whoa. I’m glad you brought that. Because if we would have gone back into the system and it came up, there really wouldn’t be anything I could do,'” Johnson said.

So now John Johnson, who just months ago couldn’t even get hired at a fast food restaurant, is training for his dream job. He will be a Certified Nursing Assistant and work at Northgate Healthcare Facility.

“I saw your segment on TV. And I was like, ‘Wow, that could really damage somebody.’ Then all the sudden he shows up in my class yesterday,” Bieneik said. “I think he’ll be an asset.”

Along the way, John says he nearly fell onto a dark path. But he persevered. And it was worth it.

“It’s such a good feeling. Now that I know I can work for something. That’s all I ever wanted to do. I don’t like handouts. I like to do for myself,” Johnson said. “I’ve lost a lot. And now I’m like, starting over.”

While John has resolution, the root of the problem still exists. The FBI criminal background search looks just at names and birth dates on New York’s Sex Offender Registry, so the chance remains that this could happen to someone else.

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