Former cops in deadly botched raid sentenced

Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009 1:21 PM
Last updated 4:49 PM
  • Follow Latest News

ATLANTA - A federal judge sentenced three former Atlanta police officers to prison Tuesday for their part in a botched drug raid that ended with the death of an elderly woman in a hail of gunfire.

Jason R. Smith, Gregg Junnier and Arthur Tesler received sentences ranging from five years to 10. Kathryn Johnston, 92, was killed by police gunfire during the 2006 raid at her home.

After receiving an incorrect tip from a known drug dealer, police used a "no-knock" warrant to enter Johnston's house to look for drugs. As they tried to break in, Johnston fired a single shot through the door with a rusty revolver and the officers fired 39 bullets in return. Prosecutors say officers found no drugs inside the house and tried to cover up the mistake by planting baggies of marijuana.

U.S. District Judge Julie E. Carnes sentenced Smith to 10 years in federal prison. She sentenced Junnier to six years and Tesler to five.

Prosecutors lowered their recommended sentences for Junnier, 42, and Smith, 36. They asked for about 10 years for Smith and five or six years for Junnier because they said the men cooperated with authorities. They did not, however, lower their recommended sentence - about 10 years - for Tesler, 42.

The judge said Tuesday she agreed that Smith should have the longest sentence because he provided false information in a sworn statement to secure the no-knock warrant and participated extensively in a cover-up after the incident.

Junnier, the senior of the three, played the biggest role in an ongoing and systematic violation of rules that eventually led to Johnston's death on Nov. 21, 2006, Carnes said. She said she had some reservations about the prosecution's generosity toward Junnier, which was based on the fact that he told the truth first and cooperated extensively with the government. But she decided to follow prosecution guidelines and give him a substantial reduction.

The judge said Tesler was a "minor participant overall" and lowered his sentence to five years. She said the government's recommendations for him were "unduly harsh."

All the men will receive credit for time already served and will get three years supervised release after they serve their sentences. Carnes also ordered them to split the cost of reimbursing Johnston's estate $8,180 for funeral and burial expenses.

U.S. attorney David Nahmias said after the hearing that the incident has had two positive outcomes. First, it led Atlanta police to reform training and supervision and to revamp their narcotics unit. Second, the sentences send a "strong message" to other police officers who might be tempted to break the law.

The Rev. Markel Hutchins, spokesman for Johnston's family, spoke by telephone to her niece and closest living relative, Sarah Dozier, 76, of Atlanta after the sentencing. "She certainly breathed a sigh of relief that there is nearly some resolution, particularly with regard to these officers," he said.

Hutchins said Dozier was sympathetic to the officers' families because she believes they were victims as well. "Her aspiration has always been justice and not a sense of revenge," he said.

The three men earlier had each pleaded guilty to the federal charge of conspiring to violate Johnston's civil rights.

Smith and Junnier also pleaded guilty to state charges, including manslaughter. They are set to be sentenced on those charges next month. Under their plea agreements, their state sentences will be served concurrently with their federal punishment.

Tesler was sentenced in May to four and a half years in prison on a state charge for lying to FBI agents, but that conviction was overturned on appeal last month.

Tesler, who did not fire a shot, was in Johnston's back yard when plainclothes officers burst in through the front door.

Carnes on Monday heard emotional, often tearful, testimony from the three former officers and their friends and family. She said she was touched by the "wrenching" stories and believes all three are good men who used bad judgment. She said she thinks they will be able to live good lives and redeem themselves after serving their sentences.

Lawyers for all three men said they had hoped for lesser sentences but praised the judge for weighing the facts in the case.

"There are no winners in this case," said Smith's attorney, John Garland. "There are only losers."

Comments (11) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 02/24/09 - 01:32 pm
0
0
Senseless death, those cops

Senseless death, those cops who are still GUNG HO take note.

justus4
113
Points
justus4 02/24/09 - 02:16 pm
0
0
"Unduly harsh?!" That what
Unpublished

"Unduly harsh?!" That what the judge said! What about Mrs Johnson?! These light prison sentences are reprehensible! A old woman sitting in her home Killed by cops, who then lied about the circustances. It's clear that this judge have no respect for a minority's life, especially old women. Words can't describe the violence visited on this poor woman and the system is an abject failure in terms of justice. The rot in Georgia's judical is deep and a total disgrace and federal oversight & intervention is desperately needed to save innocent lives.

HYPOCRITES 08
7
Points
HYPOCRITES 08 02/24/09 - 02:26 pm
0
0
Oh come on Justus. This had

Oh come on Justus. This had nothing to do with race. This was about some scared officers that messed up, got scared and lied. These officers did not intend to kill this lady. IMHO the sentence was just and appropriate.

mutt
2
Points
mutt 02/24/09 - 02:29 pm
0
0
"There are no winners in this

"There are no winners in this case," said Smith's attorney, John Garland. "There are only losers." There are winners in this case........... the people win over crooked cops who think it's ok to behave like the Gestapo, plant evidence, and lie under oath.

rufus
2
Points
rufus 02/24/09 - 02:29 pm
0
0
The lady shot at them first.

The lady shot at them first. Sure, she was scared and did not know who they were but that does not change the facts.

WhiteScorpion1
0
Points
WhiteScorpion1 02/24/09 - 02:39 pm
0
0
I agree with the the first

I agree with the the first two sentences of justus4's comments, even though he is usually a racist maggot. Personally I hope these cops croak in prison for what they did!

rufus
2
Points
rufus 02/24/09 - 02:47 pm
0
0
The real shame is that this

The real shame is that this poor woman was put in that situation by someone she trusted.

Riverman1
93354
Points
Riverman1 02/24/09 - 04:34 pm
0
0
When is the GBI report on the

When is the GBI report on the Elmore matter going to be released? Surely the investigation is complete by now.

me too
0
Points
me too 02/24/09 - 04:34 pm
0
0
I can't recall ever agreeing

I can't recall ever agreeing with Justus4, but I do this time. These weren't "scared officers who messed up and lied", these were cops who tried to cover up the murder of an innocent woman. Their sentences are much too light. Part of me believes that justice would have been swifter and stronger if the victim in this case had been white. May Ms. Johnston be able to rest in peace now.

reader54
324
Points
reader54 02/24/09 - 06:00 pm
0
0
They lied to get a search

They lied to get a search warrant, fired 39 bullets after 1 had been fired by the homeowner after they kicked in the door and then planted dope and tried to cover it up.Well,what were they doing with dope? Were they planning on planting it if they didn't find any?! This is about as bad a case of abuse of power as it gets and they get slapped on the wrist.They do this sort of thing all the time only someone was killed this time. Usually it is swept under the rug.Now everybody that has been arrested by these thugs will be filing appeals based on their unlawful conduct.I guess they had a stolen handgun in their pocket as well to plant in case something of this nature occurred!!The worst thugs are the thugs with badges.All of this B.S.over marijuana.Wow!!Big danger!!

wallerstein
0
Points
wallerstein 02/24/09 - 09:24 pm
0
0
"....officers found no drugs

"....officers found no drugs inside the house and tried to cover up the mistake by planting baggies of marijuana...."

That statement alone should've sentenced these malfeasants to the maximum allowable sentence possible.

As It Is
2
Points
As It Is 02/25/09 - 12:28 am
0
0
Thugs with badges are the

Thugs with badges are the worst kind of thugs. These guys make all cops look bad when in reality, most are good and upstanding individuals who truly want to protect, serve and help the public to live in safety. Justus for once began to make since but then of course he had to go into his racial tiraid as if race has anything to do with this. For those who continue to hind behind the color of their skin as an excuse, get a life. Now, back to the thugs whom knowingly lied for a search warrant, they deserve far greater punishments than this. Lying to a judge to perform a "no knock warrant" which is tough enough now for good police officers to obtain, then to shoot almost 40 times into a home, then to realize they screwed up badly and somehow quickly come up with drugs. Either they carried illegal drugs with them or they stole states evidence from another case. All of these officers may not have been bad as all might not of known of the bad warrant from the begining but all made their own decisions to knowingly break the law and violate the civil rights of an American and that is disgusting and makes the job of good police officers much more difficult to perform. Lock em up!!!

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs