Cut & Run

He made millions sculpting the figures of Houston women while dodging one of the largest malpractice judgments in Texas history. But after botching another surgery, can Dr. Gerald Johnson continue to operate?

But the learned judge failed to note the salient irony in Johnson's bankruptcy filing. If he hadn't made the bogus transfers, Johnson certainly could have had his debt to the Newsomes discharged. Of course, he also would have lost everything. Apparently, that was a deal he couldn't accept.

Michael Kelly once agreed with a courtroom description of Gerald Johnson as having "a way of convincing people that something that's going to be beneficial to him is also going to be beneficial to them."mmmmm Johnson may have accomplished such a mutual agreement with Charter Bank Colonial, the depository for his personal and professional assets. Following the $11 million judgment, a state district court judge ordered that Johnson's bank account at Charter be frozen. But by then, the bank reported that the account had less than $50 in it. A few weeks later, Johnson filed for bankruptcy.

In 1987, the Newsomes discovered that Michael Kelly had taken over Johnson's practice in the spring of 1986, "hired" the surgeon and opened a special bank account in Johnson's name, which the surgeon used freely as his own. The court ordered Charter to temporarily freeze Johnson's account again. The freeze was lifted when the surgeon and the Newsomes reached a settlement agreement in June 1986, with Johnson promising to turn over some real estate to the couple and pay them $20,000 a month.

Johnson complied with the agreement for a while, but eventually quit making the payments. In 1990, Charter Bank was brought in as a defendant in the still-unpaid malpractice suit. The Newsomes alleged that from May 1982 until 1984, while the bankruptcy case was pending, more than $10 million of Johnson's money had moved through the bank. They later amended their suit to allege that Johnson had deposited and withdrawn more than $5 million on an account in his wife's name from 1986 until 1992.

Oddly enough, Johnson's testimony seemed to strengthen the Newsomes' case against him, since he admitted to having access to accounts in Kelly's and his wife's names. Johnson testified that Charter Bank president Bill Terry, who was also a patient of the surgeon's, knew about the arrangement, but did nothing to keep him from banking at will on other people's accounts. Johnson was even making his loan payments, in cash, on several notes he had with Charter.

Yet the Newsomes lost the case against the bank. According to their attorney, "the jury thought he'd conned the bank like he'd conned us."

While it seemingly would have been tough for anyone close to the situation to remain ignorant of what was happening, June Johnson has testified that she seldom had much to do with "the business part of things." She professed to know nothing about Johnson's Cayman dealings or how he was managing his business finances. June had access to what surely were her own accounts. But other bank accounts in her name, as well as the accounts-receivable service, MediCash and other business ventures begun by Johnson in someone else's name, were handled by the surgeon and his business manager, Jeanne Palmer.

June's contention rings true if one considers how Johnson was able to wrest such total control of the so-called community assets while their marriage was falling apart. For that matter, June didn't contact a divorce lawyer until she discovered that Lana Lea Ryan had become Johnson's business manager and had been given financial control of his practice. June had long ago learned how to deal with women who chased her husband, the surgeon, but Davis gave her a "bad vibe" immediately, she says.

"Even our therapist said she was only there to seduce him," June says. "Everyone tried to tell him, but he wouldn't believe it. She made things a lot worse by not being the kind to be considerate to an ex-wife. Lana would like to have everything I have."

Apparently, Johnson did his best to oblige her. In April 1993, a few months after Johnson filed for divorce, he was held in contempt for failing to meet the court-ordered terms to support June during the proceedings. According to a motion for a protective order filed by June, Johnson broke into their northwest Houston home in August 1993 and took thousands of dollars in jewelry, furs and rugs.

Her attorneys suspected it first, but June didn't realize Johnson had been tapping her phones and recording conversations until he was arrested on the evening of September 17, 1993, in her back yard. Johnson was found by a deputy constable who followed a single wire from the back of the house to a fence. Just on the other side was Johnson, standing in the dark, holding a plastic bag containing a tape recorder, a pair of gloves, wire cutters and a switch box. A search of the surgeon's car turned up a pistol.

In December 1993, Johnson was indicted on a felony count of unlawful intercept of wire communication. That charge, which could have cost Johnson his medical license, was later reduced to a misdemeanor. Four months ago, Johnson pleaded no contest and received deferred adjudication. He was placed on two years' probation and agreed to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and to remain on any prescribed medications. He was also ordered to submit to twice-monthly drug screenings for six months.

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