Deputies were called to the Kentwood-area home of State District Judge Jeff Johnson on Saturday night after his wife called 911 to report that the pair had an argument that turned physical.
Neither Johnson or his wife, Rebecca Alston, was arrested by deputies from the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's who responded to the house. But a narrative report details an altercation in which Johnson is accused of pushing his wife down on the bed and holding her there in an attempt to get his cell phone back after she snatched it from him. In the report, she admits to biting her husband in an attempt to get away and he says she put her hands on his neck.
Johnson is a former prosecutor in the 21st Judicial District Attorney's Office and is currently a judge on the 21st Judicial District Court, where he has served since 2015, overseeing criminal and civil cases in Livingston, St. Helena and Tangipahoa parishes.
After The Advocate began inquiring about the incident, Johnson reached out to a reporter to arrange a meeting. Friday, he and his wife sat down to talk, but refused to elaborate on the incident or what caused it.
"Look, we're married," the 49-year old Republican said by way of explanation. "For better or for worse, we have good days and we have bad days, we had a bad day on Saturday night. That’s it."
Alston, 39, backed up her husband's story.
"We had a disagreement and we’re moving past it," she said. "We love each other and that’s all that matters at the end of the day."
The pair have been married since September 2016, though it hasn't always been smooth. Alston filed for divorce just after Christmas of 2016, alleging that Johnson was to blame for the breakup. Her request was dropped after they reconciled, court records show.
In the latest incident, the pair argued by cell phone with one another throughout Saturday, March 9, according to a copy of the police report.
Later that night, when Johnson returned home, the argument intensified, and a flustered Alston called 911 just before midnight, the report says, citing Johnson and Alston's accounts.
"I need a report filed," Alston can be heard saying in a recording of the 911 call. But a moment later, when asked for her address, Alston stumbles. "I can't remember right now, I'm so..." A male voice can be heard in the background and Alston gives the address, identifying the house as "Judge Johnson's and Rebecca Alston's."
The dispatcher presses her for what the problem is and she says that "He has assaulted me and vice versa." Later in the call she says "he has put his hands on me and vice versa."
According to a copy of the police report, Alston told the deputy that she and Johnson fought after she discovered that her picture had been deleted from his phone. She confronted him and took his phone and he grabbed her wrist to get it back, the report says.
When she wouldn't let go of the phone, Johnson pushed her onto the bed and got on top of her while still trying to grab his phone, she told the deputy. Alston said she bit Johnson on the arm and was able to get out from under him. He then shoved her and she shoved back, the report says.
The deputy then spoke with Johnson. He said the pair had been arguing throughout the day over the phone, leading him to delete her picture, the report says.
When he arrived home, she took his phone and then later confronted him in the couple's bedroom, Johnson said. He said that Alston threw the phone at him and began to attack him. He pushed her onto the bed to keep her from hurting herself or him. During that, he said, she put her hands around his neck and bit him on the arm, the report says.
Johnson told the deputy he locked himself in a bathroom to avoid Alston, who he said has a "history of being aggressive and jealousy," according to the report.
The deputy elected not to book or issue a citation to either party, according to the report, because of conflicting statements from the pair and their wishes not to pursue charges. The deputy noticed no marks on Johnson's neck, but did see a "few small red marks" on his arm. Alston also had marks on her arm, the report says.
Alston also agreed to go stay with relatives, the report says.
State law offers police officers some latitude in determining how to handle domestic violence calls when there is no serious injury. "If there is no cause to believe there is impending danger, arresting the abusive party is at the officer's discretion," state law says. According to the incident reports, the Johnson case was investigated as a disturbing the peace call.
During the Friday interview, Johnson said he could see no reason that the altercation would affect his legal career. When asked if he thought the incident would compromise his ability to hear cases of domestic violence that are before him, he refused to comment. He has no plans to take any time off or step down, and added that he expects to run for reelection in 2020.
"I don't have any reason to expect I wouldn't," he said.