11/14/13 1:01pm
11/14/2013 1:01 PM

JOE JOHNSON

A day after gun charges were dropped against Riverhead teacher Joe Johnson, Riverhead School District superintendent Nancy Carney said the district is weighing its options on what to do with its employee.

In the meantime, Mr. Johnson — who has pleaded guilty to DWI — will remain on leave, Ms. Carney said.

Mr. Johnson, 40, a fourth-grade teacher at Phillips Avenue Elementary School, was arrested by Southampton Village police about 3:30 a.m. on April 21, 2012 and was charged with drunken driving and gun charges.

“During the pendency of these considerations, Mr. Johnson will remain administratively reassigned away from his teacher duties and school campuses,” Mrs. Carney said in a media statement issued about 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

He’s been “reassigned” to his home since April 2012 pending the outcome of the criminal case, school officials have said.

During that time, he has continued to be paid — save for a four-month span from October 2012 through January, the News-Review has reported.

“During the pendency of the criminal charges, the district has withheld administrative proceedings regarding Mr. Johnson’s continued employment with the district,” Ms. Carney said Thursday.

“The board will now promptly undertake consideration [of] its options.”

Prosecutors said Wednesday night that Mr. Johnson was able to side step the gun charges over questions regarding the legality of the police search that resulted in the finding of a loaded handgun in the car, according to District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office.

Southampton Village Police Chief Thomas Cummings was not immediately available for comment.

Mr. Spota’s office said criminal court Judge James Hudson agreed with prosecutors’ assessment of the search, which resulted in the discovery of the handgun, prosecutors said.

“After a review of the facts and circumstances of the arrest, and an analysis of applicable law relating to the police officer’s post-arrest search of the car and consequential discovery of the gun, the district attorney’s office determined it could not sustain the burden of proof necessary to establish the legality of the search,” read a DA press release issued Wednesday night.

Mr. Johnson was indicted by a grand jury in May 2012 and was facing multiple gun charges.

The top charge was second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a Class C violent felony punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

In 2006, Mr. Johnson pleaded guilty to a driving while ability impaired charge in Riverhead Town, which was pleaded down from DWI.

Mr. Johnson is due to be sentenced on the DWI conviction on Jan. 8.

mwhite@timesreview.com

11/02/12 12:25pm
11/02/2012 12:25 PM
DUI, Brookhaven National Laboratory, bicyclist, Calverton

WILLIAM SLATTON

A Riverhead Town judge set bail at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond for a Middle Island man charged with driving under the influence of drugs after he hit and killed a bicyclist on Route 25 in Calverton Thursday afternoon.

William Slatton, 30, was also driving with four children under the age of nine in his car, and with a suspended license, authorities said.

At his arrangement Friday morning in Riverhead, Mr. Slatton told Justice Allen Smith that he is a stay-at-home father to four children and that he only has $1,900 in savings and could not afford an attorney.

Mr. Slatton, who wore a black sweatshirt and black pants in court, said he lives with his girlfriend and the four kids.

She was present in court with another woman but did not speak.

Mr. Slatton’s court-appointed attorney, Daniel Ginty, requested that bail be set at $1,900, but Judge Smith said that with the possibility of the charges being upgraded by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, he would keep bail at the $50,000/ $100,000 recommended by the DA’s office.

“These are very serious charges,” Judge Smith told Mr. Slatton.

Mr. Slatton, who was driving under the influence of methadone at the time of the crash, police said, has a prior felony conviction and two other convictions, assistant district attorney Dennis Ryan said in court, although he did not specify what those convictions were for.

Riverhead police said Mr. Slatton was driving a 2005 Toyota Camry westbound on Route 25, near the Calverton National Cemetery, about 1:30 p.m.on Thursday when he veered across the road into oncoming traffic, nearly hitting another car and then hitting a bicyclist who was heading east in the eastbound road shoulder.

Steven Kane

The bicyclist, Steven Kane, 57, of Brightwaters, was pronounced dead at the scene, despite the efforts of several passing motorists, including the Ridge Fire Department chief, to save him.

Mr. Kane was the manager of safety engineering at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and he also was a competitive cyclist who raced with East End Cycle Team and had finished first in his age group in several events.

Mr. Slatton is facing charges of driving while ability impaired by drugs, third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation, and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Those are all misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail, but he could face more serious charges if he is indicted.

Mr. Slatton is due back in town court on Monday.

tgannon@timesreview.com