… Former official also ordered to pay $100,000 …
By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun
2:22 PM EST, December 6, 2011
Jack Johnson, the former Prince George’s County executive who pleaded guilty in May to federal corruption charges, was sentenced Tuesday to seven years and three months in prison and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.
Johnson, a 62-year-old Democrat, was arrested in November 2010 while serving out the final weeks of his eight years as the leader of Maryland’s second most populous county. Charged along with him was his wife, Leslie Johnson, who was found with $79,600 in bribe money stuffed in her bra and underwear after having destroyed a $100,000 bribe check as FBI agents closed in on her husband.
The Tuesday sentencing was held in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. After Johnson spoke to the court and requested leniency, given his good works while in office, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte told Johnson he had to be accountable for his actions.
“You are supposed to do public works. … You were not elected to line your pockets with additional money,” Messitte said.
Johnson and his attorneys had no comment as they left the court house after sentencing.
As part of a plea bargain, Johnson in May had pleaded guilty to extortion and witness and evidence tampering charges. Leslie Johnson faces sentencing Friday after pleading guilty to evidence-tampering.
The judge’s sentence followed the federal prosecutors’ sentence recommendation, which was more lenient than it could have been because of Johnson’s cooperation and guilty plea after his arrest. It was nevertheless the stiffest sentence in a Maryland political corruption case in recent decades – surpassing the seven year term given former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell in 2007.
“The message must be sent that if you engage in the pay-to-play culture, you will not escape the scrutiny of law enforcement, and you will go to jail,” said Assistant U.S Attorney James Crowell III. Prosecutors estimated that Johnson received between $400,000 and $1 million in bribes while serving as county executive in exchange for favors worth more than $10 million to their recipients.
Among other things, prosecutors said, Johnson steered millions of dollars in government funds to developers in exchange for bribes, helped rig liquor store hours in favor of an owner who provided payoffs, arranged a hospital position for a poorly qualified physician, influenced county employers to award business to favored contractors and leaked confidential county information.
In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said the FBI began investigating allegations of corruption in Johnson’s administration in early 2006. They said the probe “uncovered a far-reaching corruption scheme centered around a ‘pay-to-play’ culture in the county, orchestrated by the defendant, in which developers and business owners paid bribes to Jack Johnson and his surrogates in return for their official action.”
Prosecutors said Johnson, a former Prince George’s state’s attorney, conspired to extort bribes virtually from the beginning of his time as county executive. The sentencing memo outlines a pattern under which Johnson accepted bribes or campaign contributions in exchange for influencing everything from restaurant inspections to county bond business to police hiring.
Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun
… Goodbye, Mr. Johnson. …