Trial to begin for officer charged in assault of teen he arrested

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Trial is set to begin Tuesday for a 24-year veteran of the Wilmington Police Department who is charged with assault in the April 2014 arrest of a Wilmington teenager.

Corporal James Coley Johnson was indicted by a New Hanover County grand jury on June 23, 2014, charged with simple assault and failure to discharge duties. According to Samantha Dooies, assistant to District Attorney Ben David, Johnson’s fate will be decided by Superior Court Judge Ebern T. Watson in a bench trial scheduled to begin today.

Johnson was charged with an alleged assault on a teen in April 2014. In a press conference weeks before Johnson’s, District Attorney Ben David called for a use-of-force investigation that involved the arrest of a 16-year-old boy on drug charges and second-degree trespassing near the Robert S. Jervay public housing community in the early morning hours of April 4, 2014.

According to records with the police department, the boy was arrested in the 900 block of Wooster Street. The teen – represented by public defender Russell Davis – pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and second-degree trespassing in New Hanover County District Court on April 24, 2014.

David said during a press conference after the teen’s plea that he became aware of video footage of the teen’s arrest, which had been recorded on an in-car police camera. That footage prompted investigations into the officer’s conduct by both the Wilmington Police Department and the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI).

Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said the investigations by the police department and SBI were due to Johnson’s “potentially inappropriate” actions in the arrest of the teen, but declined to give any details about the circumstances. David also declined to comment on what was in the video footage during that same press conference.

Department records show Johnson has been with the police department since 1989. Johnson was placed on paid administrative leave on May 14, 2014. Following his indictment and arrest on a $5,000 unsecured bond, Johnson was placed on unpaid leave on June 25, 2014.

Johnson is being represented by attorney Michael McGuinness. Assistant District Attorney Barrett Temple is prosecuting the case for the state.

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