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Johnson City cop charged with assault, reassigned pending court action

August 25th, 2014 2:57 pm by Becky Campbell

Johnson City cop charged with assault, reassigned pending court action

Greg Pohto (Carter County Jail booking photo)

A Johnson City police officer has a pending assault charge against him that stems from an alleged altercation in Carter County, but he remains on the job until the case is resolved.

“We take this situation very seriously,” said Police Chief Mark Sirois. “When we were made aware of this, that this was reported, we began an internal investigation to determine if a violation of our general orders came into play.”

JCPD Sgt. Greg Pohto was served the summons on misdemeanor assault Aug. 10 and went to be booked into the Carter County Detention Center the same day.

Pohto was not arrested and was not required to post any type of bond on the charge.

According to the affidavit, filed by Terry D. Arnold, of Johnson City, Pohto was at the Elks Lodge in Elizabethton with Arnold’s ex-girlfriend on Aug. 9.

Arnold said in the affidavit that later the same evening, around 1 a.m. on Aug. 10, Pohto approached him and asked how to become a member of the lodge. Arnold retrieved an application and was explaining the process when Pohto allegedly crumpled the paper, tossed it at Arnold and said he was just messing with Arnold.

“I then asked him to leave. He became argumentative. I turned away from him and then he struck me in the face with his fist,” Arnold wrote in the affidavit.

An Elizabethton Police Department report on the incident indicated that several lodge members grabbed Pohto and began escorting him to the door.

It wasn’t until after Pohto allegedly hit Arnold that he was informed of Pohto’s name, Arnold stated in the affidavit.

Someone called 911 about the incident and Elizabethton police responded to the lodge to take statements.

According to the police report, three officers — Watch Commander Art Smithdeal, Cpl. Lincoln Orelanna and Officer Matthew Taylor — responded to the scene.

By the time officers arrived, Pohto had left.

According to the report, Arnold told police the same story he later detailed in the affidavit. Two witnesses at the scene “corroborated Arnold’s allegations in a written statement,” the report states.

After Sirois became aware of the situation, Pohto was reassigned from the patrol division to administration. The actual transfer took place Aug. 12 when Pohto returned from his days off, Sirois said.

“Sgt. Pohto is entitled to due process both in the legal system and in the internal investigation process,” Sirois said. “Officers are held to a very high standard of conduct. We want to ensure we meet the ... uphold the best interest of our department.”

Sirois said he made the decision to reassign Pohto — as opposed to suspension — based on the information known at this time.

“The action, the reassignment, is based on the determination of this office and what we have in front of us,” Sirois said. “We have to conduct our internal investigation process. We have guidelines. We have a code of conduct. We have to depend on individual case circumstances (and) we have to proceed according to that.”

Pohto, a 15-year veteran at the police department, has not had any disciplinary action during his employment, according to Sirois.

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