A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputy resigned today amid allegations he picked up a prostitute Clearwater police had under surveillance and then lied about the encounter.
On Sept. 12, Deputy Robert F. Johnson was near Highland Avenue and Gulf To Bay Boulevard when he picked up the woman, according to a summary of an internal affairs investigation, released today.
Johnson chose to resign rather than be fired, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office.
Johnson gave authorities different stories about how the woman ended up in his car.
First, Johnson, 42, told Clearwater police he was giving the woman a ride home. When sheriff’s office internal affairs investigators asked him about the incident, Johnson said he picked up the woman after he saw her running and waving her hands, as if she were trying to get away from someone. Clearwater police told sheriff’s investigators that wasn’t the case.
Johnson also said that, once he saw the woman in distress, he circled the block once, looking for police. But Clearwater police said he circled the block at least twice before stopping on the third round and striking up a conversation with her, the documents state. To them, it looked like he was soliciting a prostitute.
Johnson also apparently couldn’t keep straight whether the woman asked him if he was a cop once she got inside his car, the documents state.
This wasn’t the first time Johnson has had problems stemming from an encounter with a prostitute. A few years ago, he went by himself to the home of a prostitute who was also working as a confidential informant.
In 2012, he gave a prostitute a ride home after she was released from the Pinellas County Jail. The prostitute told authorities Johnson had been circling her in the parking lot of the adjacent criminal court complex before asking her for a ride.
She also said Johnson let her sit in the front seat, stopped at a nearby gas station to buy her cigarettes and, once they arrived at her place, asked if he could stop by on a later date, the documents state. Johnson denied much of the woman’s story.
In 2011, he also struck up a friendly relationship with a woman after he responded to a neighbor dispute in Seminole in which the woman was involved, the documents state. In slightly more than two months, Johnson checked in on her 20 times.
On Sept. 20, eight days after the incident with the prostitute in Clearwater, Johnson’s home was under surveillance as part of an unrelated investigation by the St. Petersburg Police Department.
St. Petersburg police saw Johnson remove his uniform shirt and gun belt roughly 30 minutes before his shift ended to conduct personal business involving one of his vehicles. Johnson admitted to ending his shift 30 minutes early but denied removing his shirt to do personal business.