Thursday, December 10, 2009
Craig Former Craig Police Department detective Ken Johnson pleaded not guilty to three felony charges Tuesday in Moffat County District Court. Johnson, who resigned from the police department in September and was arrested in October, is charged with attempting to influence a public servant, a Class 4 felony; as well as accessory to a crime and embezzlement of public property, Class 5 felonies.
Judge Shelly Hill set the case for a 12-person jury trial to begin at 8:30 a.m. May 24. It is scheduled to last four days.
Johnson will next appear in district court for a pretrial conference at 10 a.m. April 26, which will focus on administrative matters in the trial, such as time limits for opening and closing statements and whether to appoint any alternate jurors.
Johnson’s attorney, Steamboat Springs-based Larry Combs, said during Tuesday’s proceedings that he plans to file a motion to sever all charges. If approved, each felony count would be prosecuted at a separate trial.
Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow, with the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said his office would oppose any motion to sever the charges.
Combs did not mention plans to file a motion requesting Johnson’s hearing be moved outside Moffat County. Snow said he could not comment on how his office would react to such a request.
The deputy district attorney also said he could not comment about any aspect of plea negotiations with Johnson or his attorney or confirm whether negotiations are ongoing or ever took place.
Johnson is suspected of misconduct during his time as a police officer and member of the All Crimes Enforcement Team task force. He also is suspected of having a sexual relationship with Craig resident Tausha Merwin.
Johnson reportedly lied to police during the internal investigation about the relationship, aided Merwin in violating her probation for drug charges, provided her with information about ongoing law enforcement investigations and gave her a laptop computer and other equipment used by ACET.
Merwin has been charged with attempting to influence a public servant, a Class 4 felony.
Prosecutors say she also lied to police about her relationship with Johnson during the department’s internal investigation.
Her next court appearance is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 19 in district court.
Officials have said in the past that Johnson could face additional charges for tampering with evidence against Merwin contained on ACET computers.
A special forensics lab in Centennial is examining the equipment to try to determine if there is proof of who changed the files.
Snow said he could not comment about whether the lab finished its analysis or the possibility of Johnson facing additional charges in the case.
The court set an April 1 deadline for the District Attorney’s Office to file new charges against the former detective.