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Sheriff's deputy accused of pushing his wife while on duty in jail pleads not guilty

SUNÑSTAR PHOTO BY GEORGE MACDONALD
Merced County Sherrif's Department K-9 Unit team members Deputy John Mathis and his partner Charlie put on a display of their search methods before Mathis introduced Charlie to Hoover Middle School principal Mike Varlas Monday morning at the school.
SUNÑSTAR PHOTO BY GEORGE MACDONALD Merced County Sherrif's Department K-9 Unit team members Deputy John Mathis and his partner Charlie put on a display of their search methods before Mathis introduced Charlie to Hoover Middle School principal Mike Varlas Monday morning at the school. Merced Sun-Star

A Merced County sheriff's deputy charged with spousal battery after allegedly pushing his wife while on duty in the main jail in May, pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment in Merced County Superior Court on Thursday morning.

Despite the plea, which Johnny Mathis' lawyer delivered with his client absent, Judge Marc Garcia demanded that Mathis himself show up in court by the end of the day because of the gravity of the charges.

Judge Garcia said that he plans on filing a protective order for Mathis' wife.

Deputy Mathis allegedly battered his wife, an on-duty dispatcher, while he was in uniform and on duty May 26 inside the Merced County Main Jail, according to the sheriff's report on the incident.

Mathis was never arrested.

During the last 10 years, Mathis has been involved in three civil cases and a government claim over use of force while on duty. All were settled out of court. Mathis cost the county more than $400,000 in the settlements.

At first, Mathis was put on administrative leave after the incident, but then given modified desk duty at a substation in Delhi.

A pre-trial conference was set for the case at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 25 in Courtroom 7.

Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at (209) 385-2484 or jlamb@mercedsun-star.com.

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