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Joe Johnson's Lawyer: 'He Will Be Found Not Guilty On All Charges'

Attorney for Riverhead teacher charged with DWI, having a loaded handgun, plans to bring the case to trial.

The attorney for a Riverhead fourth grade teacher charged with driving while intoxicated with loaded handgun said Friday he believes his client, Joe Johnson, will be found innocent on all charges.

"I fully intend to try this case," Hauppauge-based attorney William Keahon said. "I believe he will be found not guilty. He's an outstanding member of the community, a terrific educator, and is well-respected in the school district and community in which he lives. There is no question in my mind that if this case does go to trial, a jury will very quickly find him not guilty on all charges."

In grade teacher who taught at Riverhead's Phillips Avenue Elementary School and was charged with driving while intoxicated and driving with a loaded handgun in his car last April broke his silence.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his April 21 arrest, Johnson said he wanted to set the record straight.

"A lot of what has been printed just isn't true -- has never been the case," Johnson said. "All that transpired that night and since then, there are things that are wrong on every level. I'm waiting to have my turn in court so that everything can be brought to light and people can realize that this isn't all what it appears to be."

Johnson was pulled over on April 21 in Southampton Village and was charged with allegedly driving drunk with a suspended license and being unlawfully in possession of a loaded handgun, according to police. 

Johnson had a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol, police said.

According to Bob Clifford, spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, Johnson, of Southampton, pleaded not guilty to 11 charges in a grand jury indictment.

The indictment said that Johnson was accused by the grand jury of Suffolk County with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, "an armed violent felony," as well as one felony count of  criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, and one misdemeanor charge of criminal possession of a weapon; one count of driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, one count of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor.

Johnson was also charged with unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, failure to maintain lane, failure to keep right, driving on the shoulder, operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile phone, and failure to comply with a lawful order, all traffic infractions.

But Johnson said much of what has been said has been completely misrepresented. "There is something very wrong with this case," he said.

Johnson said he had a DMV hearing last summer and his license was returned. "They didn't find enough evidence," he said. "That's one good sign."

Without being able to discuss specifics, Johnson alluded to the fact that "damaging information" exists about an individual "with an ax to grind" that will help his case and restore justice.

When asked about the gun charge, Johnson said that while he is not able to discuss the details of the case, "It is not what it appears to be. It is a complete misunderstanding."

Johnson is hoping that as details emerge, truth will be revealed. "I'm just hoping in the days to come that, with my new lawyer, things will start to look better. My life has been upended completely," Johnson said. "It's been turned upside down. And I've just been sitting on the sidelines, just watching it happen, not having the power to stop it."

Johnson, married and the father of two small children, ages 6 and 9, said perhaps the most painful part has been having to stop teaching. 

"I miss it terribly," he said. "I've done it for 13 years -- and I'm not losing my passion for teaching in any way, shape or form." Johnson said he has wanted to teach ever since he was 24 years old.

Johnson and his wife, he said, have been "very protective" of their children and shielded them from what has happened during the past few months.

Despite the dark days, Johnson said recent months have had a bright side, as friends, family and community members have rallied in support. "I never knew how many people are actually in my corner, who are standing up and advocating for you and standing by your side at a time when you wouldn't expect anyone to be standing by your side. It's unbelievable. I didn't know I had this network of friends, network of respect."

But it hasn't always been easy, Johnson said. "At one point in time, I felt really alone," he said. "I'm used to being the one who solved the problems for people -- the one who has been able to connect the dots for them, showing them that there are choices. For something like this to happen to me -- it's difficult to give yourself advice."

Johnson said he hopes his students past and present realize the true nature of his character. "If anyone knows me, and knows my passion for teaching and the community, it's the children that I work with."

Johnson said he hopes to impart lessons to his students. "I talk to the man upstairs," he said. "With all the things I've been through in life it's pretty hard not to have some kind of faith. I'm a testament to the fact that if you believe in life, you can make some good out of it regardless of what upbringing you may have had. You can accomplish as much as the next person."

Those who have spoken negatively about him, Johnson said, "have never met me. The people who know me know there has to be more to the story. Those are the people who are calling and making sure everything is okay. Those are the people you count on and lean on, because you can trust them. They know who you are."

Looking forward, Johnson said he is waiting for his day in court: "I hope to be completely exonerated of all charges, so that I can move on with my life and continue doing what I love to do."

Johnson, who attended the Riverhead school district, wants to get back to teaching in his classroom. "It's in my blood."

And, he added, "I can't wait to tell everyone what really happened that night. There is something seriously wrong with this case and I can't wait for it to come to light."

 


UPTOPOVERHERE March 30, 2013 at 11:09 AM
I can't wait to see how he gets off with the gun charge! What did the police pull it out of their arse? Johnson also failed sobriety tests and a breathalizer but he is going to be exonerated of that also! What you need to do Joe is take responsibility for your bad decisions that night and face the music not blame others. Grow up and be a man and stop pointing your finger at others!
Ross MacKae March 30, 2013 at 02:36 PM
I have to ask why you have such a toxic position on this matter. The facts do not support your statement. The DMV hearing is not before a jury and is stacked in favor of the government as the ALJ is an employee of the department. The very fact that he was given his license back and the administrative hearing found him not guilty speaks volumes. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? This is not France where the police make an arrest and you are guilty, then you have to prove yourself innocent. I realize we get that confused in Suffolk county these days, but until a jury finds him guilty BEYOND a REASONABLE DOUBT. He is innocent. The media certainly is not the gospel regarding the facts in the case. Now if you have personal knowledge regarding the facts in this case, please share and isentify what you personally know to be a fact.
peacerules March 30, 2013 at 04:06 PM
Sorry Ross but I have to agree with UPTOP that Johnson has to take responsibility for his actions on that night. The fact that he was given his license back after time served (which you left out) is a suspension. A DMV hearing is not a jury trial and if the police did their job (which I believe they did) time will tell and we will see if he is convicted. If you are gullible enough to believe he is innocent that is your choice however, when the police find a UNLICENSED handgun in the glove compartment of your vehicle it is pretty obvious that you are guilty. Johnson is wrong #1 for getting behind the wheel that night and #2,#3,4 and 5 for the other charges!
Ross MacKae March 30, 2013 at 04:19 PM
You call it gullible. I call it being a person who believes in our Constitution and Justice system. I personally am fed up with sensationalism in the press resulting in people's lives being ruined without their Constitutional rights being honored. All the facts the two of you reference are allegations made in the media. None of the things either of you have stated as facts have yet to be proven true in a court of law. Excuse me for being gullible enough to have defended this country and Constitution in military service, to have had both of my sons also serve, all in the gullible belief that we are a Constitutional Republic, not a country where people are convicted by the press with 1/2 truths, sound bites, and innuendos. Under the Constitution my family has given blood to defend, that man is NOT guilty of anything nor does he have to take responsibility for accusations, until such time as he MIGHT be found guilty by a jury of his peers, who I pray are conscientious enough to ignore are the media programming and listen to the facts as presented in trial.
Ross MacKae March 30, 2013 at 04:26 PM
I must say, that Lisa Finn and the Patch are examples of better media sources and tend to not sensationalize the reporting. Nevertheless, it is still reporting allegations made by government personnel. It is a fact that these professionals, can be wrong. That is why we have our justice system. My hat is off to the patch to allow this dialog to further temper the reporting. Thank you Lisa for you journalism.
ProudofmyCountry March 30, 2013 at 06:14 PM
Ross it sounds to me like you have a personal stake here with the way you are defending Mr. Johnson. I on the other hand do not know Mr. Johnson or anyone commenting above. I have police family and friends in my life and am appauled at your reference to their possibly not doing the job properly. These professionals do an outstanding job and if not for them who knows what Mr. Johnson might have done on this early morning! Innocent people may have been injured or killed had the police not apprehended Mr. Johnson. The numbers are staggering to say the least with regard to DWI fatalities along with innocent victims being shot and killed with ILLEGAL UNLICENSED HANDGUNS like the one Mr. Johnson was in possession of this morning! I for one thank the Southampton police for the outstanding job they did by taking a intoxicated,illegal handgun possessing individual off our streets that morning! Only Mr. Johnson knows where he was headed and whom he was going to meet with this FIREARM. I served my country as well but don't see how this ties in with Mr. Johnson's actions that morning.
Ross MacKae March 30, 2013 at 08:50 PM
Proud of My Country ... Thank you for your honest response. I am too proud of my country. For clarification sake here are some facts. I do not know the man in the above article. I have never met him, nor do I know anyone who does know him. I have a son who is a retired Marine and former LA County Sheriff, his wife is a San Diego County Sheriff. And they will be the first ones to tell you that they are NOT perfect. They have made mistakes. They have interpreted the facts differently than others. They are not infallible. They are human. They do the best they can. I have sat on a jury where the facts did not support the police officers testimony. I also shook the officer and prosecutors hand after the trial. I am NOT an ANTIESTABLISMMENTARIAN. I believe in our civil rights, obligations as Americans to honor and support the Constitution.
Ross MacKae March 30, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Now the comments regarding DWI, Gun Control, etc are all legitimate concerns, but should NOT be used to determine a man's guilt without a trial, otherwise we are no different than the lynch mobs in third world countries. You too state as fact: "UNLICENSED HANDGUNS like the one Mr. Johnson was in possession of this morning!" Do you have personal knowledge this is true? or are you basing this on corporate media reporting? You further state as FACT: "intoxicated,illegal handgun possessing individual off our streets that morning!" again, do you know personally any of that to be a true fact. Our country is based on the concept that a man is INNOCENT until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of his peers. This has not happened therefore the ALLEGATIONS you stated as fact have not so been determined. I am glad you served in the United States military. You took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. That oath had and has no exit clause or expiration date.
ProudofmyCountry March 30, 2013 at 11:19 PM
Ross so in your eyes the police are liars! When the police report that they found a gun on any individual during a traffic stop I tend to believe them. When these professionals with the best equiptment available to them say that an individual failed sobriety tests I believe them. We pay these professionals to protect and serve us and when they say that an individual has broken the law I have no reason to believe that they are lieing and fabricating evidence. I tend to believe the police over an individual who has been convicted of similar crimes in the past. Have a nice day!
Ross MacKae March 31, 2013 at 01:06 AM
First of all I never said that the police officers were liars! Anyone who read what I said can easily see that I said they were not infallible. You continue to make 1/2 true statements, innuendos and make claims you do not personally know to be true. Second of all PROUDOFMYCOUNTRY, if this Country does not need courts to establish the guilt of her citizens but relied solely on the discretion of police officers because only they can be believed then why did we fight against the tyranny of Po Pot, Hitler, Stalin or Lenin? People following your reasoning used to respond, "sieg heil mein gruppenfuhrer!!" Nowhere in our Constitution or the laws of our society does it support that logic.
Ross MacKae March 31, 2013 at 01:15 AM
It wasn't all that long ago in our country's history where the Klu Klux Klan, Judge Roy Bean, MacCarthy Tribunals, Salem witch trials,etcetera followed that courts were not necessary, If one of our brotherhood said a person was guilty, they strung em up or burned them at the stake. "If your mommy is a commie, turn her in. Ostrisize her from work, bannish her from society ... the dirty commie" I think we have become more civilized since those dark times. I think that the meaning of our Bill of Rights has been educated into the masses and as a society we know better. At least I hope we have.
calmcoolandcollected March 31, 2013 at 09:47 AM
You don't respond to the facts at all all you do is spew jibberish time after time. The guy drove drunk and had an illegal firearm in the glove box case closed. Using your logic they arrested the wrong man and put the gun in the glovebox. The facts are the facts open your eyes ROSS!
Ross MacKae March 31, 2013 at 01:39 PM
Pray to GOD you are not on your jury when one of these days you have the misfortune of being accused.
ARCH STANTON March 31, 2013 at 06:34 PM
WHY DO LAWYERS INSIST ON EMBARRASSING THEMSELVES? HIS ATTORNEY W. KEAHON'S ONLY COMMENT SHOULD READ, MY CLIENT HAS PLEAD NOT GUILTY TO THE CHARGES AND IS AWAITING HIS DAY IN COURT. TO MAKE STATEMENTS SUCH AS "I FULLY INTEND TO TRY THIS CASE, I BELIEVE HE WILL BE FOUND NOT GUILTY AND THERE IS NO QUESTION IN MY MIND THAT IF THIS CASE DOES GO TO TRIAL, A JURY WILL VERY QUICKLY FIND HIM NOT GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES." LET'S BREAK HIS COMMENTS DOWN. YOU INTEND TO TRY THIS CASE, OF COURSE YOU ARE, UNTIL YOU DETERMINE HOW MUCH INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE THE DISTRICT ATTORNEYS OFFICE HAS AGAINST YOUR CLIENT AND YOU ASK FOR A PLEA BARGAIN DEAL. YOU BELIEVE THAT HE WILL BE FOUND NOT GUILTY, BUT YOU WILL PURSUE A PLEA DEAL AND FINALLY THAT A JURY WILL QUICKLY FIND HIM NOT GUILTY. BASED ON THE EVIDENCE PROVIDED TO DATE, THE JURORS WILL HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT THAT. J. JOHNSON SAID THAT HE WANTED TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT AND WOULD ONLY DISCUSS THE DMV HEARING AND REFUSED TO TALK ABOUT THE ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF A LOADED .45 CALIBER SEMIAUTOMATIC PISTOL, PLUS THE ADDITIONAL CHARGES BECAUSE HE IS NOT ABLE TO DISCUSS THE DETAILS OF THE CASE. HOW CONVENIENT. ISN'T THAT WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN PAYING YOUR LAWYERS TO DO, BE YOUR MOUTHPIECE.
Amy O'Sullivan April 02, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Proud.....I too have family who are police men/women. I also have family who serve our Country, teach our children, and many other admirable positions. For you to be "appauled" at a reference to a cop not doing their job properly is silly. Police are human, and make mistakes...some have different reasons for doing things the way that they do. I have several things to say...INNOCENT until PROVEN guilty being only one. Were you THERE while Mr. Johson took his sobriety tests? Did you see whether or not he was weaving while driving? Do you know for a FACT that the breathalizer was reading proper #s that night? Now...on another note...big, bad, dangerous Mr. Johnson....with his illegal weapon...and his intoxicated self...don't you think that if he was out to hurt someone he might have saved himself from being arrested? Come on people....even if you don't know Mr. Johnson...if it was YOU that night, and you felt wronged, or misunderstood, you would want the same respect that he deserves. A trial, to prove his innocence...and until that comes, the belief in our Constitution to grant the ability to be innocent until (UNLESS) proven guilty.
Amy O'Sullivan April 02, 2013 at 02:29 PM
So much ugliness and attacking of values, beliefs, words. We all have a right to our opinion, we have a right to free speech. We even have a right to believe what we choose to believe. The sad thing here is that a mans LIFE is in question. Someone that we may or may not know...but you all want to go off on Ross MacKae for stating the FACTS of the Constitution? Silliness, pure silliness.
Pete Calzonni April 02, 2013 at 04:26 PM
I wonder if Ross and Amy would have the same opinion if for example the police arrested a individual who while driving drunk had an accident killing 3 innocent bystanders who jumped out of the vehicle and shot 3 other innocent bystanders including a police officer? All of which was caught on a video camera along with eyewitness verification? Would this individual still qualify for your same opinion?
Amy O'Sullivan April 02, 2013 at 04:53 PM
Uncut, unaltered Video camera evidence is indisputable. And when that person went to trial, they would be found guilty based on EVIDENCE that was indisputable. What is the case with Mr. Johnson? One officers word against his. No eye witness testimony, no videography, no dead people. How do you compare? Ridiculous.
Ross MacKae April 02, 2013 at 10:24 PM
Pete, Your writing shows that you are an educated individual. It is therefore very difficult for me to comprehend how, after reading everything I have written above, you could be so obtuse as to miss the very point. WE, AMERICANS, do NOT live under fascist rule such as that of Mussolini's regime. We allegedly have a better system. I am merely stating that under our LAWS and CONSTITUTION, even your video tape (which would most certainly result in a guilty verdict) is still NOT a FACT until it has been determined so by a JURY OF Mr. Johnson or whoever's PEERS. And even that man who apparently seems probable to be guilty, is in FACT: INNOCENT, until a JURY says otherwise.
Samual Floyd April 02, 2013 at 11:01 PM
You Ross don't have a clue open your eyes before your mouth. The police have a job to do and that job is to protect and serve which is what they did the night Mr. Johnson who chose of his own free will to get behind the wheel of his vehicle drunk and carrying a loaded unlicensed hand gun! As others have stated he has done this before and should receive the maximum sentence possible. Wake up this is the real world not lala land !
ARCH STANTON April 03, 2013 at 02:31 AM
WHAT IS RIDICULOUS IS YOUR COMMENT THAT THERE IS NO EYE WITNESS TESTIMONY IN THE ARREST OF J. JOHNSON. THE POLICE OFFICER THAT MADE THE ARREST, BASED ON PROBABLE CAUSE STARTING WITH OBSERVING THE DEFENDANT DRIVING IN AN ERRATIC MANNER, WHICH INCLUDED MULTIBLE TRAFFIC INFRACTIONS. THAT LEAD TO THE OFFICER STOPPING THE OPERATOR OF THE VEHICLE AND OBSERVING AND DETERMINING AFTER INTERVIEWING JOHNSON THAT HE WAS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL AND PLACED UNDER ARREST. NOW THAT JOHNSON IS NO LONGER FREE TO GO, HE WAS HANDCUFFED AND BOTH HE AND HIS VEHICLE WERE SEARCHED BY THE ARRESTING OFFICERS AT WHICH TIME THEY OBSERVED AND CONFISCATED A LOADED .45 CALIBER PISTOL. YOUR NO EYE WITNESS COMMENT IS INACCURATE. A JURY OF TWELVE PEERS WILL DECIDE THEIR VERDICT ACCORDING TO THE EVIDENCE PROVIDED BY THE PROSECUTOR AND THE EYE WITNESS, THE POLICE OFFICER. MY ONLY QUESTION IS, THERE WAS NO MENTION OF A BREATHALYZER TEST TAKEN, WAS IT OFFERED AND REFUSED WHICH WOULD HAVE PROVEN WHETHER HE WAS INTOXICATED OR SOBER. I'M SURE THAT WILL COME OUT IN THE TRIAL IF THERE IS ONE. I STILL BELIEVE THAT A PLEA BARGAIN DEAL WILL OCCUR.
Ross MacKae April 03, 2013 at 03:19 AM
Sam, I am sorry you too believe in lynching, string 'em up justice. You personally witnessed nothing. You read an article or two and are ready to string 'em up. Wow! I thought I was in the United States of America not the Peoples Republic of North Korea where if their single police officer says someone is guilty they summarily shoot the accused. Or maybe you think we live under the Taliban, They hand out the type of justice you suggest we should follow here!
Seth Randazzo April 03, 2013 at 11:33 AM
After reading article after article I will add my two cents. To answer Arch, J. Johnson did in fact fail more than one breathalizer test and voluntary I might add. The article also states that Johnson refused a blood test. Why would someone agree to a breathalizer but refuse a blood test? If your innocent as Johnson declares why not take the blood test to prove youself 100% clean and sober? Most likely Johnson had some other type of illegal chemical in his system that he doesn't want anyone knowing about. The way some come to the aid of a person with such a checkered past just blows my mind. To question and doubt the highly skilled and trained officers of the police department is unwarranted. If Johnson had never been arrested and convicted of any crimes before I would be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Not only has he been arrested and convicted before but it was for the same type of crimes. As for Ross and I'll even add Amy to a degree, all you do is avoid the issues and instead prefer to talk about there not being eyewitnesses and lynch mobs and the Constituition. The police are eyewitnesses aren't they? It seems Johnson has a history of making bad decisions and hopefully this time will be the last!
Ross MacKae April 03, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Seth, I give up. I guess the America I have loved and shed blood to defend no longer exists in Riverhead New York, When so many of my neighbors just can't get it. Did you personally see Mr. Johnson do anything? Did you personally hear the police officer give testimony? Did you personally hear the police officer being cross examined by Mr Johnson or his attorney? Were you elected to be part of his trial jury? Did you converse and deliberate with 11 other jurors to come up with a verdict of guilty beyond all reasonable doubt? Or did you read hearsay testimony via an opinion piece written by persons who also did not personally witness anything?
ARCH STANTON April 03, 2013 at 03:39 PM
HEY SETH, I HAVE ONE QUESTION FOR YOU. WHERE DID YOU READ THAT JOHNSON TOOK AND FAILED A BREATHALYZER TEST TO DETERMINE THE ALCOHOL CONTENT IN HIS SYSTEM?
remainsunknown April 03, 2013 at 05:16 PM
I remember reading that Mr. Johnson Failed a breathalizer test 2 times when he was arrested. Newsday and the News Review both ran articles about his arrest right after it happened. I am privy to some inside info also and will only say he won't get off!
Paul S. April 03, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Seth is correct I also remember reading that J. Johnson failed multiple breathalyzer tests several hours after his arrest and also refused blood tests. Usually when ones BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) is at or above the legal limit hours after an arrest it means that person was well over the legal limit(.08)for DWI at the time of their arrest! Only time will tell what the outcome will be however I put my money on a plea deal.

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