A former Kamloops sheriff will likely avoid jail after pleading guilty on Monday to a reduced charge in connection with his high-profile arrest in 2016 following an attempt to arrange a potentially sexual encounter with someone posing online as a 14-year-old girl.
Kevin Johnston, 50, was employed in Kamloops as a deputy with the B.C. Sheriff Service when he was arrested. He pleaded guilty in Kelowna provincial court to one count of breach of trust by a peace officer. The sexual charges he was facing are expected to be stayed once he is sentenced.
According to an agreed statement of facts filed in court on Monday, Johnston began communicating online with an adult woman portraying a teenager as part of a vigilante group, Creep Hunters, aimed at exposing potential sexual predators online.
“In the month of August 2016, at a time when he was serving as a sheriff, Mr. Johnston engaged in a series of communications with Jennifer Carter,” the document states. “Those communications are the subject matter of the case before the court. Mr. Johnston engaged in those communications while off-duty, but invoked his status as a sheriff and peace officer.”
According to the document, Carter was portraying a girl named “Steph” when she began communicating with Johnston.
“In those communications, Mr. Johnston turned the conversation to sex,” the agreed statement of facts reads. “He sent two pictures of his penis and a full-frontal nude shot to Steph. He told her that he was a sheriff in Kamloops and sent photographs of himself in uniform and pictures of himself in the locker room at work.”
The messages began on Aug. 8, 2016, and concluded less than three weeks later, when Johnston drove from Kamloops to Kelowna to meet a person who he thought was Steph.
Johnston was confronted by members of Kelowna Creep Hunters at a strip mall where he thought he would be meeting Steph. The confrontation, on Aug. 27, 2016, was videotaped and posted online.
Carter contacted Kelowna Mounties and gave a statement about her interactions with Johnston and described how the conversations turned sexual in nature.
“OMG ur a cop?” Carter, as Steph, wrote on Aug. 9, 2016.
Johnston replied: “I am a sheriff! You should not have sex just to keep up with the other girls!! Your first time should be with someone special.”
Johnston’s conduct violated the Deputy Sheriffs’ Code of Conduct, court heard, which prohibits a deputy from using his or her position to advance “private interests” and becoming “engaged in any activity that may result in criminal charges or convictions.”
Johnston had been employed as a deputy sheriff for 12 years at the time of his arrest. He was suspended after the allegations were made public and resigned within a week.
Special prosecutor Brock Martland and defence lawyer Jeremy Jensen pitched a joint submission for sentence, which would see Johnston placed on four months of house arrest.
Kelowna provincial court Judge Michelle Daneliuk is expected to deliver a sentence on Nov. 6.