Former Craig police officer sentenced
Ken Johnson gets seven days in jail, two years probation
June 8, 2010
Ken Johnson, a former Craig Police Department detective, was sentenced Tuesday in Moffat County District Court to serve seven days in jail at the Rio Blanco County Detention Center.
Johnson pleaded guilty in April to attempting to influence a public servant, a Class 4 felony, as part of a plea agreement with the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office.
The former detective was also charged with accessory to crime and embezzlement of public property, both Class 5 felonies, but those charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.
The charges stemmed from his alleged relationship with Craig resident Tausha Merwin, who has past convictions for drug distribution and possession.
The plea deal stipulated he could not be sentenced to more than 60 days in jail.
Johnson appeared before judge Shelley Hill.
Hill also sentenced Johnson to 53 days of jail work release, 150 hours of community service and two years probation.
Johnson was ordered to pay $1,766.50 in fines. He will also undergo psychotherapy, DNA testing, and will be required to write letters of apology to the Craig Police Department, Moffat County Drug Court, All Crimes Enforcement Team and the Moffat County community, among others.
Johnson will begin serving his sentence Friday.
"I just want to apologize to the community and anyone else who was affected," Johnson said, following Hill's decision.
Johnson's attorney, Larry Combs, asked Hill to let Johnson serve his sentence in Rio Blanco County.
Jeremy Snow, chief deputy district attorney, did not oppose the recommendation.
However, Snow recommended Johnson serve the full 60 days.
"We are here today in this court, really, because Ken Johnson … violated the public's trust that the public gives to all law enforcement officers and agencies," Snow said to the court. "There is a certain public perception that somehow Mr. Johnson has received a slap on the wrist in this case, and quite frankly, that's not true.
"The reality is that he stands now, after today, convicted of a felony. He will never work in law enforcement again.
"While in fact that is a consequence of this plea agreement, that he will never work in law enforcement again, we feel it is important that the court impose the 60 days in jail as a symbol, I guess, for lack of a better word, of the harm that he has done to this community. As a sign that this cannot be tolerated in this community."
Combs countered Snow.
"The question becomes, how much incarceration is necessary to cure that harm?" Combs said. "Can it ever be cured by incarceration? And this concept of punishment as a symbol, well, I guess the only punishment we can inflict these days is incarceration.
"But, does that mean anything? Does that accomplish anything? Does that restore some sort of public trust, or are we just doing it because of the symbolism of it and because Ken Johnson was who he was?"
Johnson addressed the court and apologized for "making a bad decision."
"It was not my intention to break any laws when I refused to be truthful in the participation of an investigation at the police department about my personal relationships," he said. "I know now that being deceitful was the wrong way to handle it and again I apologize.
"I would like you to know that I have been continually punished in this matter by either myself or outside influences. Every day I think about what has happened."
Judge Hill addressed Johnson before sentencing him.
"Both attorneys commented on the higher standard that is expected of public officials," she said. "You know that's true and you have lived your entire professional life knowing that is true. There is a higher standard for you as a police officer … and you violated that trust in a big way."
Johnson resigned from the police department in September 2009, and was arrested later that month and charged.
Johnson allegedly provided Merwin with information about ongoing law enforcement investigations and helped her violate probation during his time as a police officer.
He also allegedly gave her a laptop computer and other equipment used by ACET.
ACET Commander Garrett Wiggins attended the sentencing. Afterward, he said he was "glad it is all over with."
"I still think it sends a message that he is being held accountable," he said.
Wiggins said he hopes Johnson will learn from his mistakes and "go on and become a better and more productive citizen of society."
Merwin, a Craig resident, is also charged with attempting to influence a public servant.
She pleaded not guilty Feb. 17, and is scheduled to appear July 12 in district court for a jury trial. The trial is scheduled for four days.
According to court records, Merwin allegedly lied to police officials about her alleged relationship with Johnson.