Among Texans who feel they've been screwed over by tow companies, Pat Johnson has established himself as something of a hero. Through his website, Texas Towing Compliance, his personal blog, and the advice he's freely dispensed pro bono over the phone on the finer points of towing law, such as how to cheaply and effectively fight a tow in justice of the peace court, he's established himself as a one-man consumer-protection watchdog for the towing industry.
But there's an big asterisk on Johnson's status as an anti-towing hero. A couple of them, actually. He's currently facing a charge in Travis County of aggravated sexual assault of a child. In 2012, a teenage boy told Austin police that he'd been visiting Johnson's trailer for a couple of years and performing oral sex in exchange for $20 or some marijuana. A hearing is scheduled for June 30, according to case records.
On Thusday, he was arrested on a charge of attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. As of Thursday evening, he was in the Travis County jail, where he will remain unless and until he can make the eye-popping $250,000 bond.
Given the tenor of the advice Johnson has posted on his blog, it might seem reasonable to assume that he had crossed the not-so-fine line between consumer advocacy and outright vigilantism. Just last month, he published a post headlined "The Best Way to Deal With a Predatory Tow Truck Driver is to Shoot Them."
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"A predatory tow truck drivers steals for living and the only solution to put a stop to a predatory tow truck driver is through the use of force, rather it be deadly force or a violent beating," he wrote, going on to assert that "Every large city in Texas is under assault by predatory tow companies to inflict harm in the same manner as ISIS."
But the latest charge against Johnson seems to have nothing to do with his towing activism. Rather, Johnson is accused of being behind a bizarre series of incidents in Austin — there have been more than 90 since 2014 — in which rocks have been hurled onto cars on Interstate 35. Police believe Johnson sometimes contacted the victims, offering his sympathy and sometimes calling 911 on their behalf.
The rock-throwing was a big enough deal that Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo felt compelled to hold a press conference at which he said that Johnson will likely face additional charges, including attempted murder.
“Mr. Johnson’s likely going to spend the rest of his life in prison once we’re done with him,” Acevedo said.