Former Prince George’s County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison on Dec. 9 in a ruling which means the former first couple of Prince George’s County will spend at least the bulk of 2012 in federal prison.

“People who hold public office have a duty to serve with integrity,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Government officials must always keep in mind that their job is to pursue the public interest and not personal profit.”

Johnson and her attorneys attempted to make the claim that she was in no way involved in the corruption scheme that resulted in her husband, former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson receiving a sentence of 7 years just three days earlier.

“I did not know anything about the criminal conduct that my husband engaged in prior to Nov. 12, 2010,” Johnson said during the hearing. “Had I known, I would hope I would have had the courage to do something about it to avoid this life-threatening ordeal.”

However, neither the prosecution nor U.S. District Court Judge Peter J.
Messitte believed her as they said that it was time that Johnson took responsibility for her actions.

Part of the evidence used against Johnson was documented in the sentencing memo against her husband. In that memo, a wiretapped conversation between her and her husband, and her husband and other people documented how Jack Johnson planned to continue to use his influence to get what he wanted.

“If we get , and and Candidate A, we’ll have really good access without the burden,” Jack Johnson said to a county official according to court documents.

Still, the most damning evidence against Johnson remains the recorded conversation she had with her husband when FBI agents arrived at their home. During that conversation, Jack is heard instructing his wife to tear up a $100,000 check he received from his longtime business partner, Dr. Mirza Baig and to hide $79,600 in cash in her underwear.

“Yeah, and look in another box. You’ll see a check in there. Yeah that’s right,” Jack said to his wife.

“Yes, there’s a check in there,” Leslie responded.

“Okay, tear it up,” Jack said. “That’s the only thing you have to do. Now go down…you got the money?”

“Yeah, wait a minute. I got the cash,” Leslie responded. “Do you have that cash down in the basement still too?”

In addition to time served, Leslie Johnson must also perform 240 hours of community service and pay a $15,000 fine. She will also be on supervised release for two years.

She must turn herself in to federal authorities on March 9.

Johnson will be eligible for release after 10 months.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO