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Kidnap plot figure enters guilty plea to state charges

Published Sep. 21, 1995
Updated Oct. 4, 2005

Ralph Johnson, who pleaded guilty in federal court last week to plotting to kidnap the former president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, pleaded guilty to state charges Wednesday. That list included a case in which jail officials say he hid pepper spray in his rectum and taped a handcuff key to his genitals.

Johnson, 45, had dozens of charges in his 11 state cases, including car theft, dealing in stolen property and operating a chop shop. While in jail in May, he also was charged with introducing contraband into a detention facility: a can of pepper spray and handcuff key that were discovered in a strip search.

Johnson is expected to be sentenced to 20 years in prison on state cases at an Oct. 30 hearing.

As his federal trial was about to begin last week, Johnson surprised prosecutors and his attorney by pleading guilty to charges of attempted extortion, being a felon in possession of a gun and making false statements to a licensed gun dealer. He faces up to life in prison at a hearing Dec. 14.

Investigators say Johnson of Dover hatched a plan to kidnap someone and demand a $1-million ransom. He considered other victims before he settled on former Buccaneers president Gay Culverhouse.