Johnson tarnishes a judge

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Judith L. Meyer damaged her own reputation by using her position and power to help Detective Todd Johnson save face. Why do Johnson’s enablers keep going to bat for him?

On April 5, 2022, the California Commission on Judicial Performance published a seven-page admonishment of Judge Meyer. The document is remarkable because it discloses facts that, otherwise, the public wouldn’t know. It illuminates a series of bizarre interactions yet leaves a crucial question unanswered.

The document explains that Judge Meyer presided over a pretrial hearing on May 15, 2017. It was a murder case. The public defender in the case accused LBPD Detective Todd Johnson and his partner Malcolm Evans of misconduct. The detectives allegedly provided incorrect information about one witness and used “improper tactics” when obtaining an identification from another witness.

Judge Meyer stated on the record that “the behavior of the detectives is appalling and unethical and inappropriate.” She ruled that the prosecution could not call two of their three eyewitnesses and, as a result, the deputy district attorney dismissed the case.

A week later, supervisors from Long Beach police went to Judge Meyer’s chambers. The supervisors told her they were investigating a complaint about Johnson and his partner filed by the deputy district attorney. Judge Meyer authorized the court reporter to provide LBPD with a transcript of the May 15th proceedings.

On April 23, 2018 — almost a year later — Detective Johnson and his partner showed up in Judge Meyer’s chambers wanting to talk about the year-old proceedings.

Immediately following this meeting, Judge Meyer wrote a letter addressed to LBPD Chief Robert Luna. Judge Meyer wrote that she felt “compelled to write…on behalf” of the detectives, whom she had known for more than nine years. She characterized the misconduct allegations against the detectives as “an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

She signed the letter and sent it to Detective Johnson via email, stating, “Please review. If you like it, I’ll send a copy to DA and Chief.”

Detective Johnson forwarded the letter to Chief Luna. The District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office, too, were given copies of the letter.

When Judge Meyer learned that others had the letter, she sent a second letter to Chief Luna on May 31, 2018. In it, she tried to retract statements she’d made in the first letter. Judge Meyer wrote that she did not have a relationship with the detectives and “never intended to give a representation that [she had] an overall feeling about their general character.”

Regardless of her intentions, the commission found that, in sending both letters, “Judge Meyer acted impulsively, without stopping to consider the potential consequences of her actions.”

Why did she feel compelled?

Judge Meyer wrote that she felt compelled — meaning, she felt forced or obliged — to draft the first letter, and to do so in the interest of the detectives rather than, say, in the interest of justice.

Why did she feel obliged to do this favor for the detectives? What pressure or leverage urgently compelled her to write immediately after talking with them? The commission’s decision doesn’t say.

Not coincidentally, on April 23, 2018 — the day that Johnson and his partner confronted Judge Meyer — a substantial article about the botched murder prosecution was published by Long Beach Press-Telegram. The article highlighted the agony of the victim’s grieving family, who were devastated anew by the failures of LBPD and the justice system.

Long Beach Deputy Chief Richard Conant, in an obtuse attempt to minimize the matter and deflect blame, referred to the detectives’ blunders as “a comedy of errors.”

So, within the context of a full-throttle damage-control public-relations effort by LBPD, Judge Meyer suddenly felt compelled.

The detectives unexpectedly confronted the judge in private and urged her to change her mind about remarks she had made many months earlier. Such an encounter can be interpreted as an ambush.

It’s striking, too, that Judge Meyer explicitly sought Todd Johnson’s approval when she sent him the letter for review. She could have sent the draft to one of her peers or superiors. Instead, her priority was to please Johnson. “If you like it, I’ll send a copy to DA and Chief,” she wrote to him.

Why would she care whether Todd Johnson liked the letter? Her outreach to him suggests that she had a compelling, personal interest in making herself agreeable to him. But why?

While Judge Meyer has acknowledged her misconduct and expressed remorse, LBPD has never publicly acknowledged that Johnson engaged in misconduct. Ever. After the murder case fell apart in Judge Meyer’s courtroom, LBPD supervisors publicly denied that misconduct occurred.

While Judge Meyer has been publicly admonished and personally embarrassed, Johnson has gotten away scot-free.

But he’s a good guy

Influential people in Long Beach apparently don’t think twice about going to bat for Johnson, even though the only person who seems to benefit is Johnson.

For example, the police brass who defended Johnson’s dubious conduct and covered up for him during his time on the force — what does Johnson say about them now? The exact words out of his mouth are: “Fuck them. I don’t give a fuck. That’s who I am. I stand by myself.”

Similarly, in a comment posted on this page, the chairperson of the Long Beach Area Republicans defended Johnson as a dedicated family man, despite audio recordings in which we can hear Johnson coerce sexual contact from an intoxicated woman in a hotel room. In another recording, Johnson threatens to go home and assault his own son.

Oh, but Johnson is a good guy, his defenders insist. Johnson, too, says he’s a good guy. He tells the woman in his hotel room what a good guy he is.

“I didn’t think you weren’t a good guy,” she replies using a past tense.

During the same slurred conversation, Johnson says: “I’m the worst person that’s ever walked this earth.” He punches himself in the head twice, each blow landing with a heavy thump, as if he’s trying to beat his contradictory opinions about himself into congruence.

Johnson says he’s crazy.

Johnson says, “I’m fuckin’ crazy.” A few seconds later, he sounds skeptical: “Oh, I’m crazy?”

Johnson’s perverse, self-directed violence — such as punching himself in the head — can be seen as a threat of violence directed at everyone within striking distance. It’s a warning. If he would hit himself, what might he do to you?

If he would threaten to beat up his own son, what might he do to your family?

A former colleague described Johnson as a powder keg who blew up at his police peers and superiors but never got in trouble for it. If he can do this to the police, what might he do to any other public official?

Somehow, Johnson persuaded a judge to recklessly put her reputation — and the court’s reputation — on the line to serve his interests.

It’s as if by defending and pleasing Johnson, his enablers hope to placate him and insulate themselves from potential harm. The case of Judge Meyer demonstrates, however, that one does favors for Todd Johnson at one’s peril.

Who’s to stop an unstable 800-pound gorilla? He seems really nice much of the time, but he does what he does.

Worried about the FBI

In audio legally recorded in his Tucson hotel room on the night of December 8, 2021, private investigator Todd Johnson accuses a woman of being a federal agent. He badgers her with this accusation to keep her in his room and to coerce sexual contact.

The lawfulness of Johnson’s purported investigation was questionable the moment he arrived in Tucson earlier that day.

As a private investigator licensed in California but not in Arizona, Johnson is required by law to notify the Arizona Department of Public Safety before conducting an investigation in that state. However, according to the Licensing Investigation Unit, there is no record that Johnson sought a reciprocal license agreement in Arizona.

Johnson spends the afternoon with the woman. Together, they visit potential witnesses regarding civil litigation involving Kyle Rittenhouse. In the evening, Johnson invites her to drink with him in the hotel bar. He takes her back to his room, ostensibly to eat nachos.

The woman tries to leave Johnson’s room several times. The first time, Johnson taunts her: “You’re a big girl. You know who you are.”

“I’m worried that you’re thinking I’m somebody that I’m not,” she says.

At the door, Johnson asks her to prove she’s not a federal agent. He puts his hands under her clothes and touches her breasts — she claims — as he searches for a wire.

She laughs as if Johnson is tickling her. “Is this a part of the cavity search?” she asks.

“You work for the feds?” Johnson asks again and again. She says no.

Later, she tells a journalist that during this exchange Johnson pushes her against the door. She sprains her wrist pushing him away.

“You dumb ass,” she exclaims. “Why you gotta pull all cop shit on me?”

“Stay the night with me,” he says. “Stay the night or I’m done.”

She later tells the police that she stays to “talk him down.” Johnson has consumed a lot of alcohol. He has shown violent flashes of temper. He has a gun.

Fuckin’ DOJ

Also, the woman spent the entire afternoon in Johnson’s company answering his questions. Johnson told her that he knows her social security number and sensitive details about her life. She fears retaliation if she leaves.

She stays to placate him. But he won’t stop bullying. Soon, she’s in tears, exhausted by Johnson’s bizarre interrogation. She’s leaving.

“No, you can’t drive,” Johnson says. “You’re buzzed.”

“I thought we were just talking about stuff,” she sobs.

“Oh, I thought so, too,” he says. “Here’s the deal. I gotta deal with the FBI. Fuckin’ DOJ. Are you part of the FBI? I don’t know.”

As if Johnson’s dealings with the FBI and DOJ — whatever they may be — entitle him to browbeat her.

Later, he asks, “Are you leaving?”

“Yeah,” she says, “because you wanted me to.”

If you’re not such a fed…

“That means you got a camera setup somewhere. I don’t trust you. So tell me why you would leave right now.”

Another time, he taunts her: “You are such a fed. …Then if you’re not such a fed, let’s go fuck. …Oh, if you’re gonna leave, then you’re a fed.”

Johnson is in a position of authority in this situation. He is a legal investigator hired to interview the woman as a potential witness. Johnson is a former LBPD homicide detective.

Johnson knows that the woman is intoxicated. On the recording, she recounts that she’s had four or five drinks, to which Johnson replies sarcastically, “So you’re sober.”

Touch it. Rub it.

On the recording Johnson can be heard kissing her and demanding more physical contact. At one point, he whispers to her, “Touch it. Rub it.”

Johnson’s behavior is inappropriate at the very least.

If Johnson were an ordinary private citizen, his fear of the feds could be considered paranoid delusion. But Johnson is a retired LEO. He sounds convinced that the federal government has probable cause to warrant cameras and listening devices in his hotel room.

Why such a guilty mind?

Maybe because of his time at LBPD. A recent lawsuit exposed lies and corruption at the heart of Johnson’s former agency. In response to the revelations, some people are calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Long Beach police.

Some speculate that such an investigation is already underway.

Famously, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department was investigated by the feds. The highly publicized investigation resulted in disgraced Sheriff Lee Baca’s 2017 conviction for felony obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI.

In that case, sheriff deputies harassed a female federal agent. They threatened to arrest her as a felony suspect.

Now, Todd Johnson’s former boss — former Long Beach Chief of Police Robert Luna — is campaigning for the job of L.A. Sheriff. Under Luna, LBPD shredded 23 years of internal affairs records. Luna is hardly a champion of cracking down on police misconduct.

As Todd Johnson harasses a female “federal agent” on tape in Tucson, it’s easy to hear echoes of other corrupt cops in L.A. County, past and present.

Maybe they fear the feds for good reason.

A little out of hand

The accusers were longtime friends of Todd Johnson’s family. Instead of going to the police, the young women wanted to meet with Johnson and his wife to tell them what their son was alleged to have done. An audio recording of the meeting was made on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Johnson’s wife did not attend. Todd Johnson was a homicide detective in Long Beach, California at the time.

On the recording, the mother of one of the women begins by explaining the circumstances. “Some shit went down last night, and it’s not OK, and I don’t know where to start with this,” she says.

During a party hosted at her house, several 20-something-year-olds — close friends since childhood — played cards, used the Jacuzzi, and drank alcohol. Johnson’s son spent the night at the house. In the early morning hours, he allegedly raped two young women as they tried to sleep.

One woman tells Johnson that she passed out wearing clothes. She woke up naked. Johnson’s son was naked on top of her, she says.

“I don’t know what your thoughts are about this,” the mother says to Johnson, “but I’m pretty upset about it.”

“Yeah,” Johnson says, sounding untroubled. “I mean, he’s not a bad kid. Everybody’s known him forever.”

The father of one of the women bristles at Johnson’s unconcerned response.

Johnson snarls at him: “You don’t know me. I don’t know you. So don’t fuckin’ grind your little teeth right there, dude. Cuz I’m not gonna play that game.”

“This is his daughter,” the mother tells Johnson.

“I get that,” Johnson says. “Wow, dude.”

The father says that the women wanted to tell Johnson what had happened rather than press charges.

“I get that,” Johnson says, dismissive. “Honestly, my kid’s not a bad kid. It got a little out of hand, obviously. I totally get that.”

As Johnson speaks, the mother says, “Todd, Todd, Todd,” as if wanting him to see the seriousness of the matter.

A young woman can be heard sobbing. She tells Johnson that she’s had a difficult day.

“I’m sorry, but you know I’m just a little stressed,” Johnson says. “You know what I do for a living? I work homicide.”

Suddenly, it’s all about Johnson and his job as a police detective: “I got murders every day. I got dead bodies laying all over the streets. So I’m a stressful motherfucker.”

“Todd, what do you think about this?” the mother asks, trying to re-focus on the alleged sexual assaults. “I mean, what do you think?”

“I don’t know. Maybe we’ll just throw fuckin’ Blake in prison,” he says with a note of sarcasm. “I don’t know. I’m just pissed at him.”

Johnson’s tone becomes threatening: “You gotta understand where I come from. I don’t fuck around. I will whoop — I will go home and fuck him up. I don’t even care.”

“What do we do?” the mother asks. “Where do we go from here?”

The father tells Johnson they’ve said what they wanted to say, and now he and his family are saying goodbye to the Johnson family.

“You guys know I’ve worked this job for 20 years,” Johnson says, reminding them again that he is an officer of the law. As if to suggest that two allegations of sexual assault are inconsequential, Johnson says: “I’ve seen everything under the sun possible.”

“I know you have,” the mother says. “But you haven’t seen someone like your daughter, like has happened — this is like — come on.”

A young woman sobs. Johnson says sorry to each young woman by name, but does not say specifically for what he is sorry. The meeting ends.

The recording stands as a document of Johnson’s disdain for crime victims and their families.

Ultimately, the young women sought rape kit exams and filed a police report. Johnson’s son was not arrested in connection with the allegations and was not prosecuted.

It’s notable that during the meeting Johnson expressed no doubt about his son’s guilt.