SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Former South Lake Tahoe police officer John “Johnny” Poland, 46, is projected to be released from custody Feb. 22 and is currently serving the last weeks of his sentence under the custody of a halfway house, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
Poland was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after reaching an agreement with prosecutors and pleading guilty to a single count of obstruction of an official proceeding.
In addition to the obstruction charge, Poland was originally indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of tampering with a witness, victim or informant. He faced as many as 20 years in a federal prison for each count.
Poland was committed to the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona on Nov. 6 2013, according to Melinda Clark of the BOP. He served time there until he was transferred to the custody of a halfway house on Nov. 6.
Poland is projected to be released from custody nearly 16 months after he was committed at the prison. Clark could not comment on Poland’s case specifically, but said projected release dates generally factor in any time credit earned.
Poland was taken into custody in January 2013 after an FBI investigation determined he gave information about police operations on several occasions to a woman, referred to in the report as VC, with whom he had an ongoing sexual relationship, according to court documents. The woman was reportedly the girlfriend of a suspected gang member and drug trafficker.
In his plea agreement, filed in federal court on May 22, 2013, Poland agreed that the factual summary that prosecutors presented, based on the FBI investigation, accurately described his criminal activity.
The summary detailed instances during which he gave information about upcoming search warrants to people familiar with VC, coached VC on how to respond to investigators’ questions, encouraged her to delete information from her phone and told her to say she didn’t know about her boyfriend’s alleged drug-dealing.
The summary also stated it had statements from two women who said they voluntarily engaged in sex acts with Poland when they were 17-year-old students at South Tahoe High School while he was a school resources officer between 2003 and 2006.
In a statement to Federal Judge Kimberly J. Mueller in August 2013, Poland stated he “made very serious mistakes in judgment and discretion, products of very poor thinking and with a lack of awareness of the consequences of my conduct. I admit that I am guilty of the crime as charged, obstruction of justice.”
“I am partially glad this happened and stopped my behavior,” he added.
He later stated, “first of all, the atmosphere where I worked as a South Lake Tahoe Police Officer had many people that acted in the way I did. It was an office that at times almost encouraged the behavior I displayed, and it also often caused extreme friction and stress amongst the officers,” he stated.
“As I stated moments ago, my police force itself was a place where ethics and morality often were dispensed with, and some corruption of the justice process occurred.”
“As a result of this case, I have genuinely lost everything that I have worked my while for [sic]. I have lost my job, my pension, all simple assets that I ever had,” he said toward the end of his statement.
South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Brian Uhler said Thursday he had no comment for the excuses Poland made for his actions. He added that Poland’s case reflected unfavorably on the department and put them in a difficult situation. Furthermore, he said he wanted to put the situation behind and move forward and that he did not wish any harm onto Poland.
Poland’s attorney, Mark Reichel, described the case against his client as a political vendetta that used him as a scapegoat. He added that the prosecution did not have a strong case against him.
About Poland’s time in custody, Reichel said Poland is a motivated and strong person who always lands on his feet and that moving forward he would have to rebuild his life.
He said he had not been in contact with Poland recently, but that he was happy he was getting out.