Jackie Johnson, a former Georgia District Attorney, is facing five years in prison. A grand jury on Thursday indicted Johnson for violating her oath of office and obstructing law enforcement.
The former Georgia District Attorney is facing five years in prison for allegedly helping to protect Gregory McMichael after his son fatally shot 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.
A grand jury on Thursday indicted former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson for allegedly violating her oath of office and obstructing law enforcement following the deadly shooting in February 2020.
The indictment, which was first filed back in September, alleges that after his son, Travis, 35, fatally shot Arbery, Greg McMichael, 65, called Johnson’s cellphone – having worked in her office as an investigator until he retired in 2019 – and said: ‘Jackie this is Greg. Could you call me as soon as you possibly can?
‘My son and I have been involved in a shooting and I need some advice right away,’ he continued in the 39-second call.
Officers with the Glynn County Police Department investigating the killing also reportedly called Johnson for advice on what to do in the aftermath, according to CNN, and Johnson allegedly ‘knowingly and willfully directed that Travis McMichael should not be placed under arrest, contrary to the laws of the State.’
The indictment further claims Johnson violated her oath of office ‘by showing favor and affection to Greg McMichael during the investigation into the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.’
She could face five years in prison if convicted by a jury.
It was unclear as of Sunday who is representing Johnson in the case.
According to the indictment, which was handed down by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on September 2, Johnson steered the investigation to nearby Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill after she recused herself from the case due to her connections with McMichael.
She then recommended to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office that Barnhill handle the case, allegedly without disclosing that she had already discussed the case with Barnhill, thereby failing ‘to treat Ahmaud Arbery and his family fairly and with dignity.’
In the aftermath, Barnhill sent a letter to the Glynn County Police Department, saying that in his legal opinion the chase of Arbery by three armed men in pickup trucks is ‘perfectly legal under Georgia law.’
He claimed they were protected under the state’s citizen’s arrest law and self-defense statutes, and concluded: ‘We do not see grounds for an arrest of any of the three parties.’
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, claims in a lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Georgia in February that Barnhill’s ruling delayed the arrest of Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan Jr. arrest by 74 days, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time.
The suit, which seeks more than $1 million in damages, alleges there was a ‘deliberate effort to cover up Ahmaud’s murder,’ alleging: ‘For nearly three months, Glynn County police officers, the chief of police and two prosecutors conspired to hide the circumstances surrounding Ahmaud’s death and to protect the men who murdered him.’
It also claims that Johnson advised police the charges were not necessary and had helped Gregory McMichael get out of legal situations in the past.
‘When Defendant Gregory McMichael was stripped of arrest powers due to his failure to complete basic training to maintain his certification as an officer, Defendant Johnson intervened on his behalf to get him an “exemption” from state-mandated training,’ the lawsuit alleges, claiming that led McMichael ‘to believe that he could act with impunity when engaging in law enforcement conduct.’
But on November 24, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William ‘Roddie’ Bryan were all found guilty last week of Arbery’s murder.
Gunman Travis McMichael was found guilty on the charge of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
Gregory McMichael, meanwhile, was found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
And Bryan was found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
They all face life behind bars.
Supporters of Arbery’s family also believe that could have ended the investigation if William Bryan Jr.’s video of the incident did not go viral in May 2020.
The viral video showed the McMichaels arm themselves with a shotgun and a handgun as they chased Arbery in a pickup truck through their neighborhood in Satilla Shores, located just outside the port city of Brunswick on February 23, 2020.
Bryan, 52, later joined the chase and took the cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun.
As they followed him they yelled, ‘Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,’ according to Gregory McMichael’s account of the incident in a police report, but Travis McMichael later grabbed and attacked Arbery, eventually shooting him, after Arbery apparently tried to grab the gun from his attacker’s hands.
The McMichaels later told investigators they thought Arbery looked like a man suspected in a rash of break-ins in the area.
After the fatal shooting, video evidence showed Gregory McMichael telling Travis: ‘You had no choice,’ as he put his hands on his son’s shoulder while Arbery, 25 – who had been shot three times – laid on the pavement, bleeding.
The additional body camera footage also suggested that the elder McMichael wanted to shoot Arbery.
‘To be perfectly honest with you, if I could have gotten a shot at the guy, I’d have shot him myself,’ McMichael told Officer Jeff Brandeberry, according to a transcript of the cop’s body-camera footage that was read aloud.
McMichael added: ‘This ain’t no shuffler. This guy’s an a**hole.’
In the nationwide outrage following the shooting, CNN reports, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp had the Georgia Bureau of Investigation take over, and they looked into allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, before handing down their indictment.
Johnson turned herself into the Glynn County Jail on September 8, CNN reports, and she was free in less than an hour without having to pay a bond.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones applauded the indictment in early September, saying Johnson ‘didn’t pull the trigger, but she is just as much to hold accountable as the three guys who actually did this to Ahmaud.’
Her attorney also said Johnson ‘should spend time in prison,’ according to CBS News. ‘Her actions are not just acts of negligence, but she actively worked to cover up the murder.’
But Johnson has denied any wrongdoing, instead, she told her constituents that she was being falsely accused.
‘This case is a terrible tragedy for the community,’ she said in an October debate to retain her seat as DA. ‘It is a tragedy for the family.
‘I’m sorry how things happened. I’m sorry that a lie got started and I could not turn it back.’
She was voted out of office in November.
The case is now being handled by a fourth prosecutor appointed by state Attorney General Chris Carr in May 2020, after Barnhill stepped down from the case because his son worked for Johnson, and a third prosecutor from a smaller county office was removed after Carr determined he was not equipped to handle the case, the New York Times reports.
‘Our office is committed to ensuring those who are entrusted to serve are carrying out their duties ethically and honestly,’ Carr said in a statement, adding that the investigation is ongoing.
A court date for Johnson has not yet been scheduled.