Police Chief charged with hindering prosecution of mayor

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Case has been brewing since December

By Linda Ireland

Hodgenville Police Chief Steve Johnson was served Saturday evening with a summons to court. He is accused of first-degree criminal misconduct and hindering prosecution, both misdemeanors.

Fellow City Officer Eddie Dockery told investigators that Johnson warned former mayor Terry Cruse, who was facing criminal charges, that Kentucky State Police were looking for him and advised him to “lay low.”

Cruse and former city clerk MaDonna Hornback were indicted in December on charges of abuse of public trust. They are accused of using the city’s gas card to put fuel in their personal vehicles. Both have pleaded not guilty and their trials are scheduled for Sept. 8.

Cruse and Hornback turned themselves in to the LaRue County Sheriff’s office the morning after their indictment (Dec. 17). Chief Johnson is listed as a witness on the documentation.

KSP began looking for Cruse and Hornback on Dec. 16, just hours after their indictment. Local TV stations showed footage of officers knocking on their doors.

KSP seized Johnson’s cellphone days after Cruse and Hornback’s indictments.

The 60-year-old Johnson has declined comment on his current charges. In December, he told The LaRue County Herald News: “They (KSP) think I either tipped (Cruse and Hornback) off (that KSP was searching for them) or helped hide them,” said Johnson. “I did neither.”

Chief Johnson said a KSP detective asked him to tell Cruse in December, “they were looking for him and to go to Post or contact Post.”

Cruse was removed as mayor by Hodgenville City Council in May. Hornback is no longer city clerk.

Interim Hodgenville Mayor Kenny DeVore said the allegations against Chief Johnson are “nothing new.”

“We knew this was pending for a while,” he said, adding that Johnson is continuing in his role as police chief.

Officer Dockery also remains on duty.

DeVore said he would seek advice from the city attorney before Johnson’s court date on July 16.

Chief Johnson also has been subpoenaed to appear in front of a LaRue County grand jury on July 21. The Commonwealth’s Attorney has requested he produce several documents in the criminal cases against Cruse and Hornback.

During the ouster hearing against Cruse, Chief Johnson testified that he authorized Hornback’s son, Andrew Hornback, to use the city’s gas card in payment for being a confidential informant.

Documents requested include policy and procedures in dealing with confidential informants, copies of budgets showing asset forfeiture and drug fund balances and expenditures, copy of officer field notes where Andrew Hornback provided information to an officer, copy of all criminal cases where information provided by Andrew Hornback was utilized, documentation showing Andrew Hornback was a CI for the department, a copy of his background investigation and copy of payout records.

The chief testified during Cruse’s ouster hearing that several of those documents now requested do not exist.