WILMINGTON – James Coley Johnson, a 26-year veteran with the Wilmington Police Department, has been demoted in rank and will return to full duty nearly two months after he was found not guilty on an assault charge.
The internal affairs investigation into an April 2014 arrest of a then-16 year old boy on trespassing and drug charges has concluded, according to Wilmington Police Department Spokeswoman Linda Rawley.
Rawley said Johnson, 51, will return to the force next week to perform administrative duties until his certifications have been brought up to date. He has been demoted from corporal to the rank of police officer.
Johnson was placed on unpaid leave on June 23, 2014, following an indictment on two misdemeanor charges, including misdemeanor assault and failure to discharge duties.
On June 10, 2016, New Hanover County Superior Court Judge Ebern T. Watson found Johnson not guilty of the charges after nearly an hour of the judge’s deliberation. Johnson waived his right for a jury trial in favor for a a bench trial, which began on May 31.
Johnson was placed on paid administrative leave following the judge’s ruling, Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said during a press conference about the verdict. Evangelous said the police department made the incident public more than two years ago, after it was discovered on an in-car video recording during a routine internal affairs audit.
The police department released the video footage from Johnson’s patrol car on the night of the teen’s arrest on April 4, 2014 and the chief’s statement to the community was released on the police department’s Facebook page. A civil lawsuit in the case on behalf of the teen, is pending in federal court.
Read related trial coverage:
- Officer cleared of assault; WPD releases video of arrest that prompted charges
- Officer testifies he did not ‘choke’ teen in patrol car
- Physician says teen in officer assault case showed no signs of having been choked
- Judge denies motion to dismiss charges against Wilmington officer
- Expert testifies officer’s actions ‘not reasonable’ during teen’s arrest
- Teen testifies he was ‘choked’ by police officer during arrest
- Trial to begin for officer charged in assault of teen he arrested