Baltimore County police officer William R. Johnson, a qualified handgun instructor in Maryland, has been indicted on charges of accepting bribes in exchange for handgun licenses and carry permits.
Federal prosecutors allege that, for anywhere from $100 to $200 cash, Johnson would sign off on their paperwork, affirming the applicant completed hours of training in his presence that they hadn’t, according to the indictment. Prosecutors say Johnson’s scheme continued for over two years, from May 2019 through this September, depriving people of an “honest service.”
The indictment outlined some of the messages federal prosecutors obtained between Johnson and clients, communications that showed those who reached out were often surprised to learn they’d be able to skip the courses and asked if their spouses, friends or family could reach out to him, too. Johnson joked about his workaround and scoffed at the state-mandated requirements, according to the exchanges in the indictment.
Johnson, 32, called in Thursday for his initial appearance in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, a virtual hearing where Magistrate Judge Thomas DiGirolamo explained the charges against him and the penalties for each offense. The indictment charges Johnson with six counts of honest services wire fraud; each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, plus a period of supervised release and a fine.
Prosecutors and Johnson’s defense attorneys told DiGirolamo they agreed Johnson should be released so long as he forfeited all of the firearms in his possession and avoided contact with approximately 139 people identified by prosecutors. DiGirolamo signed off on his release under those conditions. During the hearing, Johnson’s attorney Andrew Alperstein said Johnson intended to divest himself of his eight firearms with time to spare before the 48-hour deadline.
After court, Alperstein and Joseph Pappafotis, his co-counsel, touted Johnson’s career in the police department and said he looked forward to resolving the case. “Mr. Johnson has enjoyed a long career of public service and giving back to his community while serving as a police officer and a detective,” they said after the hearing. “It’s unfortunate that he’s in the situation that he’s in and he looks forward to dealing with it in a responsible manner.”
Johnson, a Baltimore resident, joined the Baltimore County force in 2008 and became a narcotics detective in 2014, according to a Tuesday news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maryland. Baltimore County police spokeswoman Joy Stewart said Johnson is suspended without pay [Baltimore Sun].
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