Judge lifts travel ban on Tank Johnson

Updated: January 23, 2007, 9:52 PM ET
Associated Press

Tank Johnson
Johnson

SKOKIE, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson will play in the Super Bowl -- with court approval and a warning from a judge to stay out of trouble.

Cook County Judge John Moran granted a defense request Tuesday to allow Johnson to leave the state as he awaits trial on gun possession charges. The Bears will play the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl in Miami on Feb. 4.

Moran set no special restrictions on Johnson but said he must obey the law "or dire consequences will result."

Defense attorney Lorna Propes said Johnson is grateful.

"He is a young man who is right now having the opportunity of a lifetime," Propes told reporters after the hearing.

Johnson was arrested Dec. 14 after police raided his home in Gurnee, about 40 miles northwest of Chicago. Prosecutors say officers found three rifles, three handguns and ammunition in Johnson's home. He faces 10 counts of possession of firearms without a state gun-owner identification card.

Arrested three times in 18 months, Johnson has pleaded not guilty to the most recent charges. The previous arrests involved a scuffle with a police officer, in which the charges were dropped, and a misdemeanor weapons charge.

Assistant State's Attorney Rick Cenar said the prosecution did not object to the judge's decision because Johnson has complied with the terms of his home confinement.

"It's also a legitimate work-related reason," Cenar said after the hearing.

Dressed in a dark suit, blue shirt and blue tie, Johnson stood quietly in the courtroom Tuesday, letting his attorneys speak for him.

Propes said Johnson has been "100 percent" compliant with the requirements of his home confinement.

"He's been there every single time they've checked on him," she said.

A court hearing to possibly drop Johnson's home confinement was set for Feb. 8, four days after the Super Bowl.

Earlier this month, a judge in Lake County, where Johnson's home is located, granted a defense request to allow him to travel freely outside the state.

But Cook County prosecutors argued Johnson's December arrest violated probation from a 2005 gun charge. Johnson was sentenced to 18 months' probation and 40 hours community service in November 2005 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from an arrest in which a nightclub valet reported seeing Johnson with a handgun in his sport utility vehicle.

A Cook County judge previously ordered Johnson to stay at home except to go to work, and he needed Moran's permission to leave Illinois for the Super Bowl.

Johnson's bodyguard, Willie B. Posey, was arrested on felony drug charges after the raid on Johnson's home. Posey was shot and killed two days later during an early-morning fight while he and Johnson were at a nightclub in Chicago.

The Bears suspended Johnson for one game for being out at the club.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press