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Riverhead Teacher Charged With DWI, Loaded Gun Off District Payroll

School superintendent says Joe Johnson will be off the payroll through February.

A fourth grade Riverhead teacher charged with driving while intoxicated and driving with a loaded gun in his car has been removed from the school district's payroll through February.

"Mr. Johnson has been removed from the district’s payroll through February 1, 2013," Riverhead Central School District Superintendent Nancy Carney said in an email Wednesday. "The district will continue to monitor the proceedings involving Mr. Johnson in Suffolk County Court and will take appropriate action upon the conclusion of the matter in criminal court."

Johnson was pulled over on April 21 in Southampton Village and found not only allegedly to be driving drunk with a suspended license — but also unlawfully in possession of a loaded handgun, according to police. Johnson had a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol, police said.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges in May.

Johnson was initially placed on special assignment through the end of the school year. Carney said on Wednesday Johnson is no longer on special assignment and is not being paid.

Riverhead Board of Education president Ann Cotton-DeGrasse said in August, of Johnson, ""He will not be in the classroom," during the current school year.

The board voted at a meeting in recent months to appoint a replacement fourth grade teacher to Johnson's class for the entire 2012-2013 school year, DeGrasse said.

Johnson pleaded not guilty to 11 charges in Suffolk County Court in May; according to court documents, Johnson, who is represented by Riverhead attorney John Ciarelli, is due back in court on October 31 before Judge James F.X. Doyle.

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

The indictment said that Johnson was accused by the grand jury of Suffok 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.

Carney confirmed after the arrest that Johnson is an employee of the district, who was working as a fourth grade teacher at the Phillips Avenue Elementary School, Carney said.

"The Riverhead Central School District is monitoring the matter and will, of course, cooperate with the Southampton Village Police Department," Carney said in an email in May. "Mr. Johnson was administratively reassigned to his home, immediately after his arrest. The district will monitor the court proceedings and take appropriate action concerning this matter."

Carney added that the district is committed to hiring individuals who are "professionally and ethically fit to work with our children." In accordance with the SAVE act, Mr. Johnson was fingerprinted and cleared by New York State, she said.

Further details of what led to the decision to remove Johnson from the payroll were not immediately available.

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