The criminal case against former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson concluded with his sentencing on Dec. 6, but Johnson's legal woes aren’t over yet.
A member of the D.C. Bar since 1981, Johnson is facing possible disbarment after pleading guilty in May to extortion and witness- and evidence-tampering charges. A Maryland federal judge sentenced him to spend 87 months in jail.
Johnson's D.C. Bar membership was suspended in 2002 for non-payment of dues, but new disciplinary proceedings began in October in light of his guilty plea. According to a statement (PDF) filed by the Office of Bar Counsel on Nov. 7, Johnson failed to notify Bar Counsel that he had pleaded guilty “to a serious crime” as required by D.C. Bar rules.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which handles attorney disciplinary matters, directed (PDF) the Board of Professional Responsibility to investigate whether the crimes Johnson pleaded guilty to involved “moral turpitude” – a punishable offense under the D.C. Code for members of the bar.
The board has yet to issue a report, but the Office of Bar Counsel is recommending disbarment. After the board issues its recommendation, the court will make the final decision.
“The elements of these crimes, coupled with the Court’s past precedent involving analogous crimes, demonstrate that Respondent has been convicted of at least one crime involving moral turpitude per se,” the office wrote in its statement.
Johnson’s attorney, Dorsey & Whitney partner Billy Martin, was not immediately available for comment this morning.
Johnson earned his J.D. from Howard University School of Law in 1975. At the beginning of his career, Johnson worked as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service Office of Chief Counsel. Before he was elected county executive, Johnson served as Prince George’s County’s state’s attorney.
From 2000 to 2010, Johnson served as Prince George’s County executive. Federal agents raided Johnson’s home and arrested him and his wife, former Prince George’s County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, on Nov. 12, 2010.
Jack Johnson was charged with taking bribes to the tune of about $1 million to help steer federal grant money to local developers. Leslie Johnson was charged with helping her husband cover up evidence of the crime.
In a telephone call recorded by the FBI, Jack Johnson could be heard telling his wife to flush a $100,000 check down the toilet and hide about $79,600 in cash in her underwear as federal agents knocked at their door.
Leslie Johnson pleaded guilty to the evidence tampering charge. She was sentenced to serve just over a year in jail on Dec. 9. Johnson was previously an administrative law judge in the District but she was not a member of the D.C. Bar.