Derek Johnson was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois. Derek came to Iowa during high school and graduated from Clarion Senior High in 1992. After high school, Derek obtained a degree in business from Buena Vista University. Derek attended Drake Law School and graduated in 1999. Derek began his legal career working for the Blake Parker Law Office in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Derek took a quick interest in criminal law and was handling high level felony cases early in his career. Only three months into practice, Derek handled his first Class "A" Felony (Kidnaping in the First Degree), which resulted in his client receiving three misdemeanors with probation. In 2004, he became the county attorney of Humboldt County, Iowa. In 2005, he resigned from the position as county attorney, in order to return to criminal defense.
Throughout his career, Derek has aggressively defended high level felony cases. He has defended five Class "A" Felony charges, two of which were Murder in the First Degree charges. None of those clients were convicted as charged and only one of the cases resulted in a felony conviction.
In 2009, Derek defended a 16 year old on the charges of Murder in the First Degree and Robbery in the First Degree. The case proceeded to a jury trial that resulted in his client being found not guilty on all charges.
In 2010, Derek defended an Iowa school teacher accused of the crime of Sexual Exploitation by a School Employee. In closing arguments, Derek argued to the jury that the alleged victim had testified to over 50 inconsistencies and untruths. Derek went through his argument pointing out and explaining each inconsistency and untruth. After 20 minutes of deliberations, the jury returned with a verdict of Not Guilty. This verdict not only preserved his client's freedom, but also saved her career.
2012 was a great year for Derek. In his first jury trial of 2012, Derek pointed out inconsistencies in the police officer's reports and testimony. He demonstrated that the police video displayed facts that were inconsistent with the officer's testimony. After the first morning of trial, the prosecution dismissed the charges of Possession of Marijuana, Assault on an Officer Causing Bodily Injury and Interference with Official Acts Causing Bodily Injury. In his second trial of the year, Derek teamed up with Jennifer in a felony sexual abuse trial where the client was facing up to 26 years in prison. The case ended up in a verdict of a serious misdemeanor with a 30 day jail sentence and probation. Over the course of the next month, Derek successfully tried two more jury trials (Assault Causing Bodily Injury and Theft) which both resulted in not guilty verdicts after less than a twenty minutes of jury deliberations. Derek finished 2012 with a jury trial on a Criminal Mischief charge that ended in a not guilty verdict with the jury only deliberating 12 minutes.
During the spring of 2013, Derek was representing a young man charged with armed robbery. His client was 17 at the time of the alleged offense and was facing a mandatory 17.5 years in prison. The case proceeded to trial. Derek challenged the State’s evidence concerning whether a firearm was used during the offense. The jury returned a guilty verdict on the lesser “non-armed” robbery. His client received a 10 year sentence with a 7 year mandatory, however shortly after the verdict the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that automatically applying mandatory minimums to juvenile offenders is unconstitutional. Derek followed up and petitioned the Court for a new sentencing and the mandatory minimum was removed from his client’s sentence.
In 2014, Derek was contacted by an attorney who specializes in family law regarding a case that she was involved in. Her client was going through a contested custody and he had recently been charged with a domestic assault against his soon to be ex-wife. Derek accepted the case and demanded that the case proceed to a jury trial. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty preventing a conviction of domestic assault to be used against Derek’s client in the divorce proceedings.
In 2016, Derek and Jennifer successfully tried and defended another Sexual Abuse case.
Throughout his career, Derek has tried a full range of cases, which have resulted in successful outcomes, including Sexual Abuse, Drug charges, Homicide, Felony Assaults, Escape from Custody and Eluding.
Derek has been successful in obtaining dismissals as a result of proving that law enforcement had illegally obtained evidence in cases against his clients. In 2012, Derek was able to prove that law enforcement had entered his client's residence illegally. As a result, all of the evidence that was seized by the police was declared inadmissible and the prosecution was forced to dismiss the charges of Possession of Marijuana and Child Endangerment.
Derek will challenge law enforcement’s actions in order to help his clients. If a traffic stop is involved, Derek will challenge it when the stop looks suspect. In 2012, Derek challenged a police stop that was based on his client not using a turn signal. Derek showed to the Court that under the circumstances that his client was not required to use a turn signal. The charge of drunk driving was dismissed. In 2014, Derek had another drunk driving case dismissed because law enforcement stopped his client based on someone calling him in without giving any specific reason as to why they felt his client was intoxicated. In 2016, Derek showed to the Court that law enforcement illegally entered his client’s garage. The Court agreed and a charge of drunk driving was dismissed. In 2017, Derek challenged a search that was done of his client’s vehicle by the Iowa State Patrol. The Court agreed that the search was illegal and the charge of Possession of Marijuana was dismissed.
In addition to criminal law, Derek has extensive history in working in the juvenile court. Throughout his career he has represented parents and children. In 2010, Derek was chosen by the Iowa State Public Defender to become a faculty member of a juvenile training program sponsored by the Iowa Supreme Court. In this program, Derek assists attorneys with understanding legal concepts of juvenile court and to work on building better trial skills and courtroom presentation. Derek has presented lectures on juvenile delinquency procedure at the Public Defender training conference and at the Iowa Trial Lawyers, juvenile seminar.
Derek's other specialty is social security. Social security is rewarding work for Derek because it allows him the opportunity to help people whom by no fault of their own are unable to work because of physical or mental problems. Many social security clients feel like they will never prevail because their claims keep getting denied. Derek works with clients who feel that they are at the end of the line and fights for the benefits his clients deserve.
Johnson, Bonzer and Barnaby PLC
809 Central Avenue
Fort Dodge, Iowa 50501
103 South 2nd Avenue
Marshalltown, Iowa 50158