Charges against a Pacific County Sheriff’s deputy accused of bribery and extortion have temporarily been dismissed as a new jurisdiction is being sought to try the matter.
Though it had been expected deputy Vance O. Johnson, 44, of Raymond, would be tried in Lewis County due to a conflict of interested within the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office (one of the alleged victims works for said office), Pacific County Prosecutor David Burke said Thursday Lewis County has also identified a possible conflict of interest and the charges against Johnson (11 total including five felonies) have been dismissed without prejudice.
“I assume it will be re-filed,” said Burke of the charges, stating they were officially dismissed July 22, the date Johnson had been scheduled for a preliminary appearance in Lewis County Superior Court.
Johnson had been summoned for court June 17 to appear on charges of extortion, bribery, reckless driving and reckless endangerment related to events alleged to have taken place April 20 in which Johnson approached multiple young adults and their families asking for a bribe in exchange for not pressing charges against the young persons for the alleged egging of Johnson’s personal vehicle while he was off duty March 28.
“What the dismissal without prejudice does is it stops the ball,” continued Burke, stating the new jurisdiction, which has yet to be identified, will have the opportunity to file charges on their own terms, and factors such as speedy trial regulations will not be in effect while the charges are dismissed.
Among the entities possibly trying the case is the Washington Attorney General’s Office, with Burke stating his office has been in contact with them, but has yet to receive an official commitment to take over the case. Burke indicated, if the attorney general does decide to try Johnson, his case will be among many being pursued by the state and may not come to trial in the near future.
“It will probably take a little bit longer,” he said, adding it would be the discretion of the new jurisdiction to review the case and determine which charges, if any, are to be re-filed.
When asked what circumstances led to Lewis County withdrawing from the case, Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer stated Thursday, “I was approached by a person with information regarding Mr. Johnson. I provided advice to her and, as a result, there was a conflict such that my office could not participate in the matter any further.”
Johnson remains on administrative leave from the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office, according to Burke, who indicated he expects administrative decisions regarding Johnson’s future within the office will be made before his criminal allegations reach a resolution.