Peaceful surrender was sought in Pa. rape case

December 11, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,justin.fenton@baltsun.com

The police commissioner of York, Pa., defended yesterday the decision to allow a Pennsylvania man the chance to turn himself in after he was charged with three rapes, one of which occurred in Southeast Baltimore.

York Police Commissioner Mark L. Whitman said police wanted to avoid a dangerous confrontation after Michael L. Johnson Jr. had barricaded himself in his Hanover home before his initial arrest on the Baltimore charges last week.

Johnson, a Pennsylvania municipal official, was released on $100,000 bail three days later, and police eventually linked him to two rapes in York, where he was once a police officer.

"He knew the charges were coming, and it was our attempt to have him and anyone else just peacefully turn themselves in, without a lot of notoriety, and move forward," Whitman told The Baltimore Sun yesterday.

Johnson, 40, took off Tuesday morning after being informed that he was being charged with the Pennsylvania rapes. Maryland State Police said Tuesday night that they believe Johnson might be in the Westminster area, and Pennsylvania authorities say he is considered an armed and dangerous serial rapist. In each incident, he is accused of posing as a police officer and raping a woman in a minivan.

Whitman said he was concerned that Johnson had been granted bail in the first place as he awaited a hearing to fight extradition to Baltimore.

"What I'm wondering is how a person awaiting extradition is granted bail," he said.

Johnson is president of the Penn Township Board of Commissioners and is a married father of two who ran for Congress in 2002. Whitman dismissed any notion that Johnson was treated differently because he once worked for the Police Department and is a sitting public official.

"That would not have made one iota of a difference," he said.

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