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Deputy accused of bribery, extortion to be tried locally

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A Pacific County deputy accused of multiple felonies related to bribery and extortion is expected to be tried in Lewis County, with a preliminary appearance scheduled for July 22.

Vance O. Johnson, 44, of Raymond, has been accused of recklessly endangering several young adults allegedly involved in the egging of his personal vehicle on March 28, and later soliciting bribes from the victims and their families. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said one of the victims is a member of the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office, presenting a possible conflict of interest, and his office will be hearing and potentially trying the case.

According to witness statements, Johnson had been off duty at his residence the evening of March 28 when one of the passengers in a passing Honda, occupied by five individuals described as in their late teens and early twenties, threw an egg at Johnson’s Jeep, which was parked in his driveway. Johnson then allegedly followed and attempted to stop the Honda while traveling very closely and flashing his high beams before pulling in front of the other vehicle and stopping sideways in the road to block them off.

The driver of the Honda told investigators he had to forcefully apply his brakes to avoid striking Johnson, and said Johnson then displayed a “come at me” gesture while also motioning toward a firearm at his waist. The driver of the Honda then drove rapidly from the scene, but Johnson continued pursuit at high speeds (an estimated 65 mph, according to the victim driver) until the Honda pulled off and parked on a side road, with Johnson losing track of them at that time.

Then, on April 20 (noted in the report as Easter Sunday), Johnson had been leaving the scene of a burglary investigation while assisting a member of the Raymond Police Department when he spotted the aforementioned Honda and instructed the Raymond officer to follow him as Johnson tailed the victim.

Upon reaching the victim’s house, Johnson parked in the driveway, obstructing the victim’s entrance, then exited his vehicle and began harassing the victim, stating $1,500 in damage had been done to the paint on his Jeep and Johnson would not press “felony” charges if the victim paid him the same amount. (The actual charge appropriate for the alleged egging would be a gross misdemeanor, while a body shop estimate included in the incident report placed repairs for the Jeep at around $300.)

The victim said he told Johnson he had not thrown the egg, but Johnson allegedly stated he did not care and again insisted on being paid in exchange for not filing charges. Johnson then produced a form on which he insisted the victim write a statement admitting his guilt in the matter or else the victim would “get a ride in a cop car,” prompting the victim to comply

During this exchange, the victim’s mother returned home and was also informed by Johnson of his demand for $1,500, and the mother reportedly told investigators she felt, at that point, her only options were to pay Johnson or let her son be arrested.

Johnson is also alleged to have contacted the families of other passengers from the Honda that day to make the same demand, while additionally confronting the mother of a passenger April 21 at her office within the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office. During this exchange, the mother of the victim said she questioned Johnson about his motives relating to the egging incident and his subsequent contacts with the victims, at which time Johnson allegedly become “enraged” and attempted to push over the mother’s desk before leaving her office.

Shortly after Johnson’s contacts with the victims, complaints against him were filed with the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office and an investigation was initiated by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office April 24, as per Pacific County’s internal protocols.

On June 17, Johnson was sent a summons informing him he was being charged with one count of first-degree extortion, four counts of bribery, one count of reckless driving and five counts of reckless endangerment and was ordered to appear in Lewis County Superior Court on July 22.

If found guilty on all charges, he could face as many as 56 years in prison. He remains on administrative leave from the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office pending the results of his court case.

The report noted none of the occupants of the Honda were willing to go on record to describe the alleged egging, having been advised by legal counsel of their rights against possible self-incrimination.

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