A former Kamloops deputy sheriff caught in a 2016 Creep Hunters sting will serve a one-year conditional sentence with four months' house arrest.
Kevin Johnston, 50, was arrested after he travelled to Kelowna from his then-home in Kamloops to attempt to arrange a potential sexual encounter with someone posing online as a 14-year-old girl.
He will serve his sentence at his home on Vancouver Island, where he now lives.
The sentence, for one count of breach of trust by a peace officer, was handed down Tuesday in Kelowna provincial court by judge Michelle Daneliuk and came after lengthy negotiations between Crown and defence lawyers.
Three original charges of communicating with a person believed to be underage for the purpose of facilitating a sexual offence, as well as one count of invitation to sexual touching, were dropped. In the end, Johnston pleaded guilty to breach of trust by a peace officer in connection with his high-profile arrest in 2016 in Kelowna following a vigilante sting operation.
Outside court, Johnston’s lawyer, Jeremy Jansen, said the decision was expected given that it was a joint submission by defence lawyers and Crown Counsel.
“He’s pleased to have this behind,” said Jansen of his client, noting Johnston plead guilty to just single lesser count charge, not to any sexual charges.
“Those were all dropped,” he added.
Johnston was employed in Kamloops as a deputy with the B.C. Sheriff Service when he was arrested.
According to an earlier agreed statement of facts filed in court, Johnston began communicating online with an adult woman portraying herself as 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, the court heard last month, 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.