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Drug distribution case dismissed against former narcotics cop

Don Henry Johnson, 31.
Don Henry Johnson, 31.
Weber County Sheriff's Office

OGDEN — Prosecutors dismissed a drug distribution case against a former Ogden police officer Tuesday, citing "multiple evidentiary concerns."

In a motion filed Tuesday, prosecutors wrote that dropping the two-year-old case against Don Henry Johnson, 31, was "in the interest of justice."

Johnson, a former Ogden police office and member of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, was charged in an investigation dating back to 2014 with four counts of distribution of a controlled substance, a second-degree felony.

Johnson was accused of using two confidential informants the strike force used in undercover investigations to make drug buys for him, which were not authorized or detailed in police records.

The case was prosecuted by the Davis County Attorney's Office to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Prosecutor Jason Nelson did not return calls for comment.

Cara Tangaro, Johnson's attorney, said Johnson is relieved to be rid of the allegations, and rather than seeking compensation, will focus on his future.

"The good news is Don gets to move on with his life," Tangaro said. "He is relieved the case is dismissed, and he's relieved that creates more options for him moving forward."

That includes considering "if he wants to try and have a future as a cop or if he wants to move in a different direction," Tangaro said.

Johnson had worked for the Ogden Police Department for six years when he resigned in January 2015, just before the first two charges against him were filed.

Since the former officer was charged, his defense team has been conducting its own investigation in an attempt to debunk the informants' accusations. When the search uncovered what Tangaro considered exculpatory evidence, she turned it over to prosecutors.

"I implicitly trust Jason Nelson and Troy Rawlings and his office to do the right thing," Tangaro said. "They took our information, they looked into it, and they agreed that there were significant evidentiary issues with the case."

At first look, Tangaro said the evidence in the case seemed to support the informants' claims. However, a further look pointed in another direction.

While prosecutors presented evidence that Johnson's cellphone was pinging in an area at the same time one of the informants claimed he was buying drugs, Tangaro said the defense confirmed Johnson was checked in at a nearby gym. And regarding a cash ATM withdrawal that prosecutors alleged was used in a buy, hotel records show the money was taken out just before Johnson and his wife headed to Wendover for a weekend.

Johnson, who had been ordered to stand trial on all four charges, was scheduled to appear in a hearing Thursday that now has been canceled as the case closes. Charges in the case are dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be filed again in the future.

Tangaro called the dismissal evidence of the justice system working as it should. At the time charges were filed, she said, the state had sufficient evidence to support the claims. But when new information identified evidentiary issues, prosecutors properly closed the case.

"I commend this office for doing the right thing, this is how the system should work," she said.