Hempstead Village Police Chief Paul Johnson was arrested Wednesday for allegedly fixing tickets as a favor for a former village trustee in exchange for his promotion to top cop, Nassau County prosecutors said.
A grand jury indicted Johnson on felony charges of tampering with public records and grand larceny as well as misdemeanor counts of official misconduct, criminal contempt, conspiracy, and obstructing governmental administration. He pleaded not guilty before Judge Teresa Corrigan along with Hempstead Village Police Sgt. Joseph Savino, who was also indicted on many of the same charges.
“In response to community complaints of corruption and abuses of authority in Hempstead Village government and the Hempstead Police Department, my office began a long-term investigation that uncovered shocking allegations of corruption by a village trustee and the most senior police officials,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. “As crime in Nassau has reached record lows, violence has risen in Hempstead, and it is critical that leaders and the community collaborate to ensure that the public is served by an ethical government and protected by a professional and effective police force.”
Johnson allegedly fixed tickets at the behest of then-Village Trustee Perry Pettus when Johnson was a lieutenant. He was promoted to chief shortly afterwards, authorities said. Savino also allegedly helped Pettus fix tickets on behalf of restaurateur William Mendez, who was also charged with tampering, grand larceny, official misconduct, conspiracy, and obstructing governmental administration, prosecutors said.
Pettus, Mendez, and former Deputy Hempstead Village Police Chief Richard Holland were previously arrested as a part of related schemes.
According to investigators, on May 16, 2018, Mendez asked then-trustee Pettus for help fixing four tickets that Hempstead village police issued to one of Mendez’s employees. Pettus called Johnson on the same day and Johnson later allegedly told Pettus that the tickets would be fixed. Pettus then called Mendez to say, “They’re done. You don’t have to worry,” according to prosecutors.
The following week, Pettus told Johnson that he would be promoted to village police chief. Days after that, Pettus voted to promote Johnson to Acting Chief of the Hempstead Police Department.
“Ya know, if I can look out for you cause it’s something minor like a parking ticket, a traffic ticket, that’s one thing,” Johnson allegedly told Pettus. “But if you’re talking about criminal offenses and weapons and drugs and something, that’s something different.”
Johnson is additionally charged with ignoring a grand jury subpoena to produce the tickets that he allegedly fixed on behalf of Pettus and Mendez.
Pettus also used his position as a trustee to ask Savino to fix tickets as a favor to Mendez, authorities said.
They all face up to seven years in prison, if convicted of the top felony count. They were all released without bail. Pettus is due back in court May 7, Mendez is due back May 22, and Jonson and Savino are due back June 10.
The charges are unrelated to former Hempstead Village Police Officer Randy Stith recently pleading guilty to theft in a deal that allowed him to avoid prison time. Stith has rebuffed calls that he resign from the troubled Hempstead school board as a result.