Case dismissed against former Ogden police officer accused of distributing drugs

Wednesday , April 05, 2017 - 12:47 PM1 comment

Nadia Pflaum, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — A 2nd District Court judge dismissed all charges against a former Ogden police officer accused of allegedly distributing controlled substances while working as a narcotics agent.

Don Henry Johnson, 31, will not face trial for four second-degree felony charges of arranging to distribute a controlled substance, Judge W. Brent West said Tuesday, April 4. 

The illegal drug purchases were alleged to have happened in 2014. Johnson had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

“The basis for the State’s motion is that multiple evidentiary concerns have arisen in this case, and dismissal at this time is in the interest of justice,” Deputy Davis County Attorney Jason Nelson wrote in his motion to dismiss, filed Tuesday in Ogden’s 2nd District Court. 

Davis County Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case, rather than Weber County, to avoid conflicts of interest. Likewise, the Layton Police Department stepped in for the investigation after the Ogden Police Department suspected Johnson of criminal activities. 

Trial dates were set and cancelled three times since prosecutors first filed charges against Johnson in 2015.

Cara Tangaro, Johnson’s attorney, told the Standard-Examiner, “After providing what we thought was exculpatory information, Jason Nelson and the Davis County Attorney’s Office did the right thing, which was to dismiss this case because they had evidentiary issues that they weren’t sure they could overcome at trial.”

Some of the information Tangaro provided gave Johnson an alibi. In one instance, she said, investigators claimed a “ping” or signal from Johnson’s cell phone placed him near a location at the time of one of the alleged transactions. Tangaro had proof that Johnson was checking into his gym, near that same location, at the same time. 

Prosecutors have an ethical obligation to be mindful of their chances of a successful conviction at trial, Tangaro said, and she trusted Davis County’s attorneys to make the right call.

“Honestly, this is how the system should work.” Tangaro said.

Johnson resigned from the Ogden Police Department shortly after he was initially charged. Tangaro said she is doubtful that he would return to that agency after his certification is restored. 

Contact reporter Nadia Pflaum at npflaum@standard.net or follow her on Twitter at @NadiaPflaum

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