Former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson was indicted in September for obstructing justice in the Ahmaud Arbery case, and faces five years in prison
A 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 black jogger 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, fatally shot Arbery, Greg McMichael 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 [inaudible] 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 doin 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.
Gregory McMichael, center, was found guilty last week in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. He had worked as an investigator for Johnson until he retired in 2019
Arbery, 25, had been jogging through the McMichael’s neighborhood when they started to follow him, ultimately leading to his death
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.’
Afterward, 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 family claims that delayed the arrest of Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan Jr.’s arrest by 74 days.
They were all found guilty last week of Arbery’s murder.
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.
Gregory’s son Travis, left, fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery when he was out for a jog in 2020
Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill reportedly wrote following the shooting that the three men who followed Arbery when he was out for a jog and shot him did not violate Georgia state law
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.
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.
The McMichaels later told investigators they thought Arbery looked like a man suspected in a rash of break-ins in the area.
In the outrage, 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.’
But Johnson has denied any wrongdoing, instead telling 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 Banhill 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.