Ex-Hamilton police sergeant pleads guilty to felony charge for OVI crash

Former Hamilton Police Sergeant Casey N. Johnson, who faced multiple charges stemming from a September 2022 crash that happened while he was impaired and an assault that occurred at a local football game, pleaded guilty Wednesday to amended charges.

Johnson, 41, was indicted by a Butler County grand jury in February for aggravated vehicular assault, OVI and assault for the Sept. 16 incidents. He was initially charged with felony vandalism after allegedly damaging a Butler County Sheriff’s Office cruiser at the scene of a crash in Morgan Twp. He was off duty at the time. The grand jury declined to indict on the vandalism charge.

Johnson also was involved in an altercation with a girlfriend in the parking lot of Ross High School during a high school football game, police said. Johnson left the parking lot driving the Toyota Tundra that was crashed a short time later.

The misdemeanor assault charge pertains to that incident, according to Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser.

At Wednesday’s hearing in Butler County Common Pleas Court, Johnson pleaded guilty to vehicular assault, a fourth-degree felony, assault and OVI, both first-degree misdemeanors. The felony charge carries a possible sentence of up to 18 months in jail, and the misdemeanors a maximum sentence of up to 180 days each.

As part of the plea deal, Johnson agreed to surrender and not renew his police officer certification and “not to seek law enforcement employment in any other state or jurisdiction,” according to court records.

Judge Greg Howard set sentencing for Sept. 27. Johnson is free on his own recognizance.

The case was handled personally by Gmoser, who told the Journal-News the victim of the crash agreed to a reduced plea, saying “I would not have done it without that.”

“Yes, I was pounded on by a lot of police officers to plead this thing down to a misdemeanor, and I refused to do that,” Gmoser said. But he did want to take away a mandatory prison sentence because of his past record as an officer.

In 2010, Johnson received the Preservation of Life Award for stopping a man during his attack of a woman with a claw hammer inside a Hamilton apartment. The suspect was beating the woman in the head, after being told by Johnson to drop the hammer, the man continued the beating. Johnson then shot and killed the suspect, according to police.

“I handled the officer involved shooting in which he shot a man who was about to murder a woman with a hammer. He did everything tactically correct. And I know from people I have talked to that has played on his mind also. I have never had that experience myself so I cannot judge if a person is affected by that or not. He did his duty, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t affected by his conduct and what he had to do.”

Johnson’s attorney Lawrence Hawkins III declined comment.

Johnson, who had been a police officer since 2004 and in July 2022 was promoted to sergeant, was terminated from his job a couple weeks after the incident.

The termination came after a disciplinary hearing in which Police Chief Craig Bucheit found Johnson in violation of the department’s general rules specifically conduct of unbecoming an officer and conformance to laws.

The injury crash happened about 11 p.m. in the 5900 block of Cincinnati-Brookville Road when Johnson crossed over the center lane and hit another vehicle head-on that was traveling westbound, according to the crash report.

The woman in the other vehicle was taken to an area hospital for treatment of injuries that were not life-threatening.

Johnson was placed in a cruiser during the investigation into the crash, which deputies suspected involved alcohol.

The internal investigation obtained by the Journal-News says Johnson became “voluntarily intoxicated” while tailgating in the parking lot during the first half of the Ross High School football game. At about 8 p.m. he assaulted a woman known to him in the parking lot near the stadium and left when witnesses tried to intervene, reports say.

At the crash scene, deputies determined Johnson was intoxicated, alcoholic beverages were found in his vehicle and the other driver reported his was intoxicated, according to the report conducted by Lt. Pat Erb and Sgt. Mark Hayes.

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