WACO (February 8, 2012)--Almost four years after Hank Johnson, 27, was beaten so severely at a Hearne motel that he later died, a Waco federal court jury awarded more than $8.6 million to his mother in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Trae Thompson was found to be responsible for July 10, 2008 beating death of Hank Johnson while Johnson was staying at the Executive Inn motel in Hearne.
The jury also found Thompson converted Johnson's property to his own use and stole property from Johnson.
In all, the jury awarded $8,659,400 in damages.
Johnson mother Sandi Johnson and Johnson's estranged wife Cary Johnson brought the lawsuit in an effort to hold several people responsible for Hank Johnson's beating death.
In all nine people and entities were listed as defendants in the lawsuit but over time several of them had been removed.
When trial started on Monday the defendants included only Thompson, Kalpesh Govind, and John Govind, owners of the motel, Ester Martinez and Ralph Martinez, believed to have participated in the beating and Patricia Nelson and Fredel Miles.
All of those defendants other than Thompson defaulted when they didn’t show up for court and are liable for judgment as well should Judge Walter S. Smith decide to hold them culpable.
The finding was somewhat empty, however, in that Thompson is an inmate in the Texas prison system, swerving time for aggravated assault on a peace officer and may not have any assets.
“We do not believe the verdict is empty. The jury award can be collected from the other defendants,” said Ty Clevenger, attorney for Mrs. Johnson.
“More important, my clients wanted a verdict to set the record straight,” he said.