Whilst both club and sponsor have now terminated Johnson’s contract, there’s the grey area of the time from when his illicit grooming affair was revealed, to the moment he pleaded guilty in court.
It was at that point that Sunderland sacked Johnson, and Adidas quickly followed suit, but something that has come to light over the course of Johnson’s trial is that Sunderland knew about the kiss with the 15-year-old, because it came to light in a meeting between Johnson, his lawyer and club chief executive Margaret Byrne, in May of last year.
When pressed in court, Johnson revealed how in that meeting there was simply no discussion of being dismissed by the club.
The question remains then – should Sunderland have sacked Johnson immediately upon finding out there was sexual contact between him and the underage girl, or is it right that they waited until there was a court case to decide this? What it comes down to, ultimately, is whether an admittance of a kiss is seen in the eyes of the club as sexual misconduct or whether that can be deemed as innocent.
The ins and outs of the trial continue to feature daily in the nation’s news feeds, and are centred around the examination of whether there was any more wrongdoing on Johnson’s part, aside from the one charge of sexual activity and one charge of grooming that he has previously pleaded guilty to.
The key to the further investigation is whether Johnson committed further sexual acts with the girl, in his Land Rover. One of the most contested issues revolves around the fact that Johnson researched the ‘legal age of consent’ on the internet, and the prosecutor, Miss Kate Blackwell QC, stated that: "The Crown suggest that such a search to satisfy such an interest is unlikely to have resulted from a kiss and no more than a kiss, as the defendant contends."
Dr. Paul Hunton, a forensic computer scientist, told the jury the search was made four days after sexual contact is alleged.
The date on which the sexual acts are alleged to have taken place is the 30th January 2015, the second occasion on which the two had met privately, in Johnson’s Land Rover, near the girl’s home.
Blackwell laid out the Crown’s case as follows: “Sexual activity took place, that the defendant and (the girl) kissed, with tongues, for some time during which the defendant unbuttoned her jeans and undid the zip. The defendant then stopped what he was doing. He did not, as he would have you believe, have a sudden pang of conscience, an epiphany, an experience of sudden and striking realisation."
Rather, Blackwell suggests, Johnson drove to a more hidden area because he was expecting sexual contact to go further, and did not want anyone to oversee him. Further evidence lies in that Johnson’s messages to the girl after stated that: “It was class”, and “Just wanted to get your jeans off.”
Johnson maintains that although he wanted to touch “private parts” of the girl’s body, they had done nothing more than kiss. Upon being asked why this was the case, he stated that: “When I had my kiss I knew that it was wrong and I didn't want it to carry on any further."
In an interview in the court room, the girl mentioned that she had not previously talked about the further sexual contact in the police interview because there was not text evidence to back it up, and also because she was trying to ‘protect’ Johnson.
She went on to say that she was no longer trying to protect him because of the hell she had been put through and that he had made her out to be a liar.
In cross-examination, Blackwell told Johnson that "some people may feel sorry for you because you have thrown away your glittering career. The position you are in now was a direct result of your excessive arrogance."
Johnson replied that it was not arrogance, but “stupidity,” that had resulted in the current legal situation, but admitted that he did not think of himself as an honourable man.
Whilst the trial continues, the issue of celebrities and underage girls seems to repeatedly crop up in today’s news, whether it be in trials such as Johnson’s, or uncovering past felonies.
There’s a feeling that this is a landmark case within the age old grown-man-teenage-girl debate, and that what happens in Bradford Crown Court could genuinely be something that makes a difference. On that much, it remains clear that the jury is still very much out.