Pubdate: Thu, 06 Mar 2003
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2003 The Decatur Daily
Author: Chris Paschenko


HUNTSVILLE - A Morgan County sheriff's deputy accused by the FBI of 
distributing marijuana said he will fight the charges because he is innocent.

Deputy Gregory Lamar Johnson, 37, of 616 Corsbie St., Hartselle, said from 
his attorney's office in Huntsville that he will plead not guilty at his 

"I deny it, totally," Johnson said. "I'm going to fight this because it's 
ruined my name and my reputation, and I'm not going to stand for it."

Johnson's attorney, Robert Shipman, said the charges brought against his 
client Monday didn't come first-hand from law enforcement personnel.

"So far there are allegations in a complaint, but there's been no evidence 
presented." Shipman said.

"The complaint is not by law enforcement persons that say they saw 
anything, but just by private citizens, one in particular, that say they 
saw him pass some marijuana."

When asked if only private citizens brought complaints against Johnson, 
Supervisory Special Agent Mike Ponzo said the FBI cannot comment on the 
impending investigation.

Another allegation brought in the FBI's affidavit states that while Johnson 
worked for the Hillsboro Police Department he signed for and took 
possession of marijuana that was confiscated as evidence, and then it 
turned up missing.

According to the affidavit, the Lawrence County district attorney's office 
dropped a marijuana possession charge against Johnson because it was 
unclear whether the department or Johnson lost the evidence.

Johnson, on the advice of his attorney, declined to comment on the matter.

The affidavit further states that a woman interviewed by the FBI claims she 
developed a relationship with Johnson, receiving marijuana from him over 
several months, and that on one occasion he brought her marijuana in a 
Hillsboro police evidence envelope.

Johnson, who previously worked with Hillsboro police before transferring to 
North Courtland, denies giving away, selling, buying or doing any form of 

"All these things are alleged," Johnson said. "All these things that are 
printed in the paper are alleged. This relationship that they're saying, 
it's alleged. It never happened, and I want to make that clear to everyone."

Suspended From Job

Johnson doesn't know what his specific employment status is with the Morgan 
County Sheriff's Department, saying he spoke with Sheriff Greg Bartlett 
briefly Monday.

"I'm indefinitely suspended right now," Johnson said. "They're going to 
have a hearing with the Personnel Board. I don't know if I'm terminated. I 
don't know if I'm on leave without pay. I've spoken with him (Bartlett), 
and he said he supports me in a way, but he said it's what they had to do."

Bartlett said earlier this week that he was taking immediate action to 
terminate the deputy through the county's personnel system.

Shipman expressed confidence in his defense of Johnson.

"We have a case that appears to involve a very small amount of marijuana, 
and we have a case where key people do not have the credibility of an FBI 
agent or a law enforcement person." Shipman said. "There is a lot more 
optimism from the defense under these circumstances."

Shipman said neither he nor his client is certain of the identity of 
Johnson's accusers.

"We don't want to name somebody and be incorrect, and put them in the same 
position he's (Johnson) been put in," Shipman said. "This is not an 
undercover policeman, and this is not law enforcement persons that say he 
did it. We're going to fight this, and he's asking everybody to wait before 
passing any judgment on him and see what facts come out."

Johnson's indictment and arraignment are expected to come later this month.


An article in Thursday's Valley Edition incorrectly reported that the 
Lawrence County district attorney's office dropped a past marijuana 
possession charge against Morgan County Deputy Sheriff Gregory Lamar Johnson.

The charge was not against Johnson. It was against another man.

THE DAILY regrets the error and is glad to set the record straight.
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