Recently-retired Sheriff Ben Johnson not content with big-game hunting after all; can't walk away from criminal investigations

Photos for Headline Surfer / Former Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson is sworn in as an investigator by State Attorney RJ Larizza during a ceremiony that was kept low key. Johnson is shown with his wife, Leslye Gayle, in the Office of the State Attorney in Daytona Beach last week.
 
By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Just a few weeks ago, there was the big headline in the Daytona Beach News-Journal: "Sheriff Ben Johnson to trade crime fighting for game hunting" and shown on his airboat in the water. 

There were eight men ahead of him, all holding rifles, including Johnson, with dogs barking up s storm as Johnson had his rifle trained on oner of several deer, 

But on this mid-December day, the deer got away into deeper, more dense woods of a 52,000-acre hunting ground near Osteen Johnson holds a lease on, according to the News-Jourrnal.

 With Johnson's 16-year run as sheriff ending -- he chose not to seek a fifth four-year term -- he will be a civilian again, and a retiree. So said the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the official newspaper of record for Volusia and Flagler counties. Hunting is one of many pastimes Johnson, 66, wants more time to enjoy, as pointed out in the daily newspaper.

Running the hunting camp, riding horses and motorcycles also were mentioned in the plans for the DeLand native with the heart of a country boy, as he was described. There was no mention of criminal investigations. Not even a hint.

"These are things I am looking forward to and at the same time have fun while doing it," Johnson said. "And if I get bored doing that, I'll just help my friends. Maybe mow their yards." 

So the latest development in Johnson's plans surely comes as a huge surprise -- not a hint of it in the big News-Journal feature on the longtime sheriff published on Dec. 18. He was sworn in mid-last week as a reserve investigator in the Office of the State Attorney by the elected prosecutor himself of the 7th judicial circuit, RJ Larizza, with Johnson's wife, Leslye Gayle looking on.

 With Johnson's 16-year run as sheriff ending -- he chose not to seek a fifth four-year term -- he will be a civilian again, and a retiree. So said the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the official newspaper of record for Volusia and Flagler counties. Hunting is one of many pastimes Johnson, 66, wants more time to enjoy, as pointed out in the daily newspaper. Running the hunting camp, riding horses and motorcycles also were mentioned in the plans for the DeLand native with the heart of a country boy, as he was described.

There was no mention of criminal investigations. Not even a hint.

"These are things I am looking forward to and at the same time have fun while doing it," Johnson said. "And if I get bored doing that, I'll just help my friends. Maybe mow their yards." 

So the latest development in Johnson's plans surely comes as a huge surprise -- not a hint of it in the big News-Journal feature on the longtime sheriff published on Dec. 18. He was sworn in mid-last week as a reserve investigator in the Office of the State Attorney by the elected prosecutor himself of the 7th judicial circuit, RJ Larizza, with Johnson's wife, Leslye Gayle looking on.

This turn of events might not even have made the news -- at least not for a while, perhaps until the News-Journal was called upon to spin it favorably, if it had not been for an intrepid follower of Headline Surfer who saw pictures of the swearing-in ceremony on Gayle's Facebook page, in which she wrote: "Congrats to my husband, sworn in today at the Office of the State Attorney." Headline Surfer reports it for what it is, leaving whatever interpretations there are left to those who read this story.

State attorney spokesman Spencer Hathaway confirmed Johnson's hiring, pointing out it was without pay. Johnson has made more than a million dollars in his 16 years as sheriff.

Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area in Central Florida, via HeadlineSurfer.com. Specializing in breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most experienced reporters with dozens of journalism-industry awards in print & digital mediums. Frederick is enrolled online at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's pursuing a Master of Arts degree in New Media/Journalism (graduation in March 2018). Frederick earned his BA in Political Science/Public Admin. (concentration in Writing) from Central Connecticut State University, in 1984, where he recieved the President's Citation for "academic excellence & outstanding campus/community service." Prior to myriad duties as publisher/award-winning journalist of Headline Surfer, 2008-present; Frederick was city hall reporter for the Palatka (FL) Daily News, 2007-2008; city editor of the Taunton (MA) Daily Gazette, 2005-2006; cops & courts/legal affairs writer for the Daytona Beach News-Journal, 1996-2004; and cops & courts reporter for the Rockland (NY) Journal-News/Gannett Suburban Newspapers, 1989-1996.