Chief expected New Port Richey police officer's drug arrest

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - The New Port Richey Police Department suspended an officer without pay Friday after he was arrested for drug trafficking.

Officer John Nohejl, a 13-year veteran, faces charges for using and selling prescription drugs.  His boss isn't surprised.

"I expected it," said NPR Police Chief James Steffens. "I was disgusted, but I was relieved."

Chief Steffens put Nohejl on paid administrative leave last April after his supervisor reported finding him sleeping in his patrol car at the beginning and end of his shift.

"He was a sitting duck. He was sitting there out in the open for not only citizens to see what they might've thought was a lazy police officer, but for the bad elements in our society, he was an easy target," said Chief Steffens. "It was a timing game and patience was a thing we had to sit there and do. It was painstaking to sit there and wait for the process."

After Chief Steffens sent him home pending that investigation, Nohejl became the focus of another investigation, this time by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, which suspected he was dealing drugs.

Thursday night, deputies pulled him over for a traffic stop, when they say he fled and threw prescription pills out of the window before stopping. Detectives searched his car and house, then charged him with drug trafficking.

"For a police officer to be selling drugs, that kind of conduct, could be very relevant to the issue of, 'Is he telling the truth?'" explained criminal defense attorney John Fitzgibbons. "In cases where he could possibly be a key witness, that could jeopardize the prosecution and maybe lead to dismissals."

The state attorney's office is currently investigating how many cases might be affected by Nohejl's arrest. Chief Steffens believes it will be minimal, considering he hasn't been working for them since April.  Still, he's concerned any defendants who have Nohejl as a witness to potential crimes may use his arrest as an opportunity to question his credibility.

"I was disgusted.  This person had worn a New Port Richey Police Department uniform and was a member of our noble profession," Chief Steffens said.

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