Nancy Carney: District weighing ‘options’ on 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.

[email protected]