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Johnson may not go to Miami

Bears DT's legal woes could interfere with Super Bowl

Posted: Monday January 22, 2007 10:53AM; Updated: Monday January 22, 2007 10:53AM
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Tank Johnson played well in the Bears' win over the Saints on Sunday.
Tank Johnson played well in the Bears' win over the Saints on Sunday.
Don Lansu/WireImage

There's one Chicago Bear who still doesn't know whether he'll be in Miami for Super Bowl XLI, and he won't know until Tuesday morning.

At half past nine in Courtroom 108 of the 2d District Municipal Courthouse in Skokie, Ill., defensive tackle Tank Johnson and his attorneys will ask Circuit Judge John J. Moran, Jr., for permission to leave the State of Illinois. Without Moran's permission, Johnson won't be going anywhere.

The early indications from Moran are not promising for Johnson, who is charged with violating probation as the result of a police raid on his home and the seizure of six guns and more than 500 rounds of ammunition.

When Johnson first appeared in court to respond to the charge of violating probation, Judge Moran set a bond of $100,000, a clear indication that Moran was not happy with Johnson's behavior. Prosecutors and defense lawyers who practice in Chicago's criminal courts agree that the $100,000 bond is highly unusual. The typical bond for a probation violation charge would be $1,000 or even no bond at all.

"The bond is astounding," one veteran defense lawyer told SI.com. "It means that Johnson is in real trouble with this judge."

Johnson was in the 13th month of an 18-month term of probation when a Gurnee police SWAT team raided his house, finding the guns and arresting his friend, Willie Posey, who was caught in Johnson's basement with a wholesale quantity of marijuana. Posey was murdered two days later moments after he and Johnson arrived in a Chicago nightclub that was a notorious gang hangout.

In addition to the guns and hanging out with a convicted felon, Moran will undoubtedly notice that the current charge is Johnson's second allegation of violating his probation. In March of 2006, Johnson was charged with violations of the conditions of his probation because he had failed to pay a fine, had failed to complete community service, and had failed to do drug and alcohol tests. Johnson managed to settle those charges.

It adds up to a difficult situation for Johnson. "Jack Moran is a tough character," observed a defense lawyer has handled many cases before Moran and insisted on anonymity because he currently has other cases before Moran. "He will do what the case and the situation demand regardless of what it may do to the Chicago Bears and their defensive line. Johnson may not make it to Miami."

Moran has been a judge since 1991 and previously served as a prosecutor in Cook County from for six years. He serves as an adjunct professor at DePaul University.

Johnson's predicament is critical to the Bears. Tommie Harris, the Bears best defensive tackle is out with an injury. Without Johnson, the Bears would be playing for a championship without their two top defensive tackles.