Suspended city police Officer Dwayne Johnson pleaded innocent Wednesday to a 15-count indictment accusing him of defrauding the city by not working while on duty.
Outside the courtroom, Johnson’s attorney categorically denied that his client ever defrauded the city or anyone, saying Johnson was simply a hard worker, working two jobs to support his family.
In all, Johnson faces a total of four felonies: defrauding the government; fourth-degree grand larceny; and two counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.
He appeared in court with his attorney, Gaspar Castillo. Castillo said later his client is innocent.
“He’s a dedicated police officer. He loves being a cop. That’s what he likes to do and what he loves to do, and that’s what he intends to continue doing,” Castillo said.
To view the indictment against Dwayne Johnson, click HERE.
Castillo said Johnson worked two jobs but never at the same time. The police department was well aware of Johnson’s outside employment, Castillo said.
Johnson was released on his own recognizance. Wednesday’s indictment resulted in a suspension without pay for 30 days.
Johnson has been suspended with pay since allegations of time stealing surfaced in February. The allegations came after The Daily Gazette asked why Johnson’s patrol car was frequently parked at a local apartment for hours during times he was supposed to be patrolling.
Since February, city investigators have uncovered allegations that Johnson was not only failing to work his city shift, but was also either working security at a gas station simultaneously or not working either job and being paid for both.
In addition to the felony counts, Johnson faces a total of 11 misdemeanors: five counts of official misconduct; five counts of receiving unlawful gratuities; and one count of second-degree scheme to defraud.
Johnson would face termination upon conviction of a felony. In the meantime, the city will seek to terminate his employment through administrative proceedings, Schenectady Police Department officials said in a statement.
“Only by continued diligence can the department restore public trust and confidence and enjoy the professional reputation that the majority of the police officers earn and deserve,” said a statement issued Wednesday by Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett.
The charges against Johnson cover the time period from Oct. 25, 2008, to Feb. 7, 2009. The earlier date appears to coincide with the installation of GPS monitors in patrol cars.
During that time, Johnson is accused of scheming to defraud the city and illegally taking more than $1,000 in benefits.
Specifically, the misconduct and gratuities counts address five separate dates: Oct. 25, 2008; Dec. 28, 2008; Jan. 30, 2009; Jan. 31, 2009; and Feb. 7, 2009.
On each of the dates, Johnson failed to perform duties of his position and did so at the Hess Express at 229 N. Brandywine Ave.
Johnson, an eight-year veteran, has been accused of working at the gas station as a security officer during the same hours he was supposed to be patrolling the city, essentially being paid to patrol, but only patrolling at the gas station.
Law enforcement officials have said Johnson’s tax returns prove he worked at Hess as a night watchman. Johnson also worked nights for the city as a patrolman.
“Either he was stealing from the city or stealing from Hess,” Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said Wednesday.
Carney said he couldn’t say whether it was impossible for Johnson to work both jobs separately, but, he said, “our proof is that he was working both on those dates.”
Carney also said there have been no allegations that supervisors knew of or condoned Johnson’s alleged actions.
The false instrument counts relate to allegations that Johnson filed false time report vouchers Jan. 30 and Feb. 7.
When The Daily Gazette first reported the story, city officials suggested that Johnson may have simply been too exhausted to work. Johnson was the top overtime earner for 2008, nearly tripling his salary to $168,921.
He logged 75 hours every week last year and had logged 70 hours a week through mid-February of this year when he was suspended.
When asked about the hours logged to amass that salary and the hours put in at the gas station, Castillo said simply that Johnson was dedicated.
“You say that as if there’s something wrong with working hard and working double jobs, if that’s what it takes to take care of your family,” Castillo said.
Regarding the regular four hours Johnson’s patrol car was observed by the reporter parked at the apartment while he was supposed to be on duty, Castillo said he had little information.
He speculated, however, that “natural human functions” necessitate stops at different locations.
When pressed about the length of time he was seen there, Castillo responded “allegations are allegations. It’s real easy to make accusations. Now has come the time to prove it.”