A former Half Moon Bay police officer was found fit to face a criminal trial on Friday morning after his own defense attorney raised questions about his client’s mental fitness.
The ruling, by a panel of doctors, means Askia “A.J.” Johnson, who worked for several years as a city policeman, will face a jury trial. Johnson left the department in 2010, just before the department disbanded and law enforcement was turned over to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
Johnson is accused of embezzling $5,700 in 2008 when he served as board president of the Half Moon Bay Police Officers’ Association. Johnson denies the money was stolen and says that it was actually a loan that he intended to pay back. He has since paid back $4,000 of the money, which prosecutors contend doesn’t mitigate the original crime.
Johnson previously stated that he would defend himself in front of a jury by presenting financial documents to prove other officers were routinely borrowing money. This strategy apparently led to disagreements with his appointed defense attorney, Ross Green.
In a surprise move two months ago, Green requested that the court trial be postponed so that physicians could analyze Johnson to make sure he was mentally competent.
On Friday, after the doctors determined he was fit for trial, Johnson made a motion to fire Green and appoint a new defense attorney.
“I think Ross Green was doing what he felt he needed to do,” Johnson said, speaking on Friday afternoon. “I just want the facts to come out, and hopefully the jury will see my side.”
The court will review Johnson’s request for a new attorney at a hearing on July 20.
Correction: A quote by Askia Johnson was inaccurately stated earlier. The error has been corrected.