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Jail officer fired for selling cigarettes to inmates at $100 per pack

The sheriff’s office tried to prosecute Byron D. Johnson but could not find state or federal statutes applicable to tobacco unlike alcohol, drugs of abuse or weapons, according a report obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

Reports indicated Johnson, 32, placed Newport cigarettes in a mop bucket and inmates collected them, divided the tobacco, flushed the packaging and rolled the tobacco in Bible pages to smoke it.

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Investigators worried Johnson was being groomed to provide illegal drugs, the reports said, referencing a jail phone call during which an inmate talked to his brother.

“(The inmate) tells his brother to take this person to Cheeks Gentlemen’s Club and buy his drinks,” the report said. “(The inmate) said if he does that, the doors will be open for anything.”

Johnson’s March 4 termination was a “probationary release” because he was in his first few months as a corrections officer. He was making $17.44 per hour.

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A notice letter from Sheriff Rob Streck to Johnson read: “This action results from you knowingly violating multiple Sheriff’s Office policies and potentially violating criminal law.”

A message left for Johnson was not immediately returned.

Johnson was interviewed by investigators, jail staff talked to inmates and surveillance video was reviewed, according to the report.

The sheriff’s office case report said a March 3 tip about contraband led to a search of several inmates and a jail cell.

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“The inmates were transported to the first floor receiving area to be scanned using the jail’s body scanner,” the report said. “Using the body scanner, the jail staff found a lighter concealed on one inmate.

“A second inmate was scanned and admitted to the jail staff that he had tobacco concealed rectally. A third inmate was found to have a medical glove that had two bags of what appeared to be tobacco.”

Johnson told investigators he only sold cigarettes once then amended that to twice after acknowledging the stories of inmates about prior sales.

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Johnson admitted to having two more packs of Newport cigarettes and one pack of Black & Mild cigars with him. It is against jail policy for employees to carry tobacco.

The investigation showed Johnson was paid via a cash app on his phone and that inmates would empty the tobacco out of the cigarettes and divide it up, then flush the cigarette packs and papers.

The report said Johnson’s reasoning was so that the inmates would be “pliable.”

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Jail phone calls from weeks before the March 3 incident referred to Johnson as a “cold pickle,” which the report said was slang for “the chosen one.”

The report said one inmate advised a person he called to “tell the C.O. to stop playing games or he’s gonna pull him through the (cell) bars.”

A search of Johnson’s vehicle revealed no more contraband, but did include Bibles.

“I advised C.O. Johnson they would’ve eventually have him bringing drugs into the jail,” an investigator wrote. “C.O. Johnson said he wouldn’t have done that, and I advised they would threaten his job if he didn’t.”

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The report said sheriff’s office supervisors reviewed Ohio laws and checked with an Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) agent about any federal statutes.

“Due to no criminal violation,” the report concluded, “this case will be closed to further investigation.”

In 2016, Johnson tried to join Dayton police but was “denied by civil service” according to his personnel file. The criminal investigation report indicates Johnson said he was denied because of his driving record and work history.

The Wayne High School graduate with some college experience checked boxes in his corrections officer application that he had stolen as an adult and been fired, terminated or been asked to resign from a job.

MORE: Read other stories from Mark Gokavi

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