For Jack Johnson, A Fall From Grace

Johnson is sentenced to seven years and three months in jail, plus three years supervised release.

Former Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson was sentenced Tuesday to serve seven years and three months in a North Carolina federal prison, ending a sensitive chapter in the county’s long political history.

With his sentence, Johnson also received three years of supervised release and must also pay a $100,000 fine, $37,000 of which is due before he goes to the Butner Federal Correctional Complex on Feb. 3. In jail, Johnson must go through an alcohol treatment program.

“In my wildest dream, I could not imagine being in a place like this," Johnson said before his sentence at U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. "I've lost everything — my reputation, everything I've worked so hard for."

During Tuesday’s sentencing, attorneys for Johnson tried to portray the former county executive as an unhealthy man unable to serve time in a federal prison. Johnson, 62, has been diagnosed with Parkinsonism, which could lead to Parkinson’s Disease, said attorney Jeff Harding. 

“Prison doesn’t make any sense,” Harding told federal Judge Peter J. Messitte. “He would go off to some federal penitentiary and die.”

Instead, the attorneys argued, Johnson should be sentenced to house arrest so he can receive the appropriate medical care for his condition.

Federal prosecutors questioned the Parkinson’s argument, citing a picture taken by government officials that showed Johnson playing golf shortly after his diagnosis. Prosecutors also cited a report in which Johnson supposedly admitted to drinking heavily, which could have led to Parkinsonism.

Ultimately, Messitte didn’t buy the Parkinson’s argument either, and referenced a letter from Jeffrey D. Allen, Chief of Health Programs for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to confirm that the prison system has the facilities to take care of Johnson.

Also, Messitte said, the court had already considered a lesser sentence for Johnson since he admitted guilt and cooperated with federal officials during his arrest. However, Johnson’s age and medical condition weren’t enough to further reduce his sentence.

And while Billy Martin painted Johnson as a hard-working community servant who made one mistake, Messitte referenced a long-standing system in which Johnson “lined his pockets.”

“When you lose in public officials, you lose trust in government,” Messitte said.

After the sentencing, Johnson took the elevator downstairs to be processed and then he left the building without comment.

During a press conference, Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. State’s Attorney for Maryland, warned politicians against corruption.

“Jack Johnson thought corruption was the normal way of doing business,” Rosenstein said. “Anybody out there who’s engaged in corruption should not be resting easy.”

Others are ready to move forward.

“Since day one, I have been focused on the future of this county and not the past,” County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said in a statement. “Today’s events have not changed my focus one bit and I will continue to work tirelessly to make this County the best it can be.”

To see how events unfolded Tuesday, read below.


Update, 1 p.m.: U.S. State Attorney Rod Rosenstein said as punishment, they collected a vintage Mercedes from Jack Johnson's home Monday.

Rosenstein said they hope to eliminate conditions that will lead to future corruption in the county. He added that Johnson's sentence is long for a corruption case and he hopes it's substantial enough that it'll send a message to others.

Update, 12:48 p.m.: The press conference with the U.S. State Attorney Rod Rosenstein has begun.

Jack Johnson will serve his sentence at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina. His seven-year sentence will begin in February.

"It's not a coincidence to see a case like Jack Johnson's result in a guilty plea," Rosenstein said. "People would assume it's fiction, but it's not, it's reality."

"Jack Johnson knew he was under federal investigation," he continued. "He just laughed it off and continued to put money in his pocket."

Update, 12:35 p.m.: Jack Johnson is processed and walks out of the courthouse flanked on each side by attorneys and supporters.

As the media frenzy outside builds, members of the media ask Johnson for comment, but he doesn't say a word. Watch him leave the courthouse.

Patch is still at the courthouse waiting to hear word from the state's attorney.

Update, 12:23 p.m.: Patch is on scene awaiting a scheduled press conference. We will stream live video, once the conference begins.

Stay tuned.

Update, 12:09 p.m.: Johnson has been sentenced to seven years and three months in jail, plus three years supervised release. He will also need to complete an alcohol treatment program.

Johnson must also pay a $100,000 fine, $37,000 of which must be paid by February.

Update, 11:53 a.m.: In my wildest dream, I could not imagine being in a place like this," said Johnson. "I've lost everything -- my reputation, everything I've worked so hard for."

He then apologized to the residents of Prince George's County, the young people who look up to him, and his family for letting them down.

Update, 11:31 a.m.: Billy Martin, an attorney for Jack Johnson, is defending his character: "He didn't buy or cheat his way into office."

Jack Johnson's attorneys are seeking a sentence less than 87 months. A heavy sentence at Johnson's age isn't justified, Martin said.

Instead, Johnson's attorneys want house arrest for the former county executive, so he can receive the medical attention he needs.

Update, 11:20 a.m.: Because Johnson cooperated with federal officials, he faces 87 to 108 months in prison, two to three years of supervised release and fines of up to $150,000.

Update, 11:11 a.m.: The judge explained the sentencing guidelines, saying that they already take the defendant's age and criminal history into account.

A federal prison official confirmed in a letter to the state that it has the ability to provide care for Johnson if he has Parkinson's Disease.

The judge also said that age and family ties aren't enough to justify a lesser sentence for Jack Johnson.

Update, 10:41 a.m.: The arguments are completed. The judge has called for a 10-to 15-minute recess to discuss the issue with attorneys. He'll rule once he returns.

Update, 10:30 a.m.: The state questions Johnson's Parkinson's Disease diagnosis.

The state cited a report in which Johnson admitted to heavy drinking, which they said could have contributed to the tremors.

Last year, Johnson had hypertension and anxiety disorder, but no confirmed Parkinson's Disease, the state reported. Jack Johnson has Parkinsonism, which could lead to Parkinson's Disease, but he doesn't have Parkinson's Disease now.

Even if Jack Johnson has Parkinson's, the Federal Bureau of Prisons would be able to take care of him, says the state.

Update, 10:14 a.m.: Inside the courtroom, Jack Johnson's lawyers are seeking lesser penalties for the former county executive, due to his age and medical condition.

Jeff Harding, an attorney for Jack Johnson, said the former county executive suffers from tremors, which doctors diagnosed as Parkinson's Disease in July.

Update, 9:50 a.m.: Jack Johnson arrived in a black SUV around 9:15 a.m. and walked into the courthouse with his legal team. It was eerily quiet except for the camera shutters and one attorney who asked the media to "make a hole."

Original Post, 8 a.m.: Former is scheduled for sentencing at 9:30 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt.  

Johnson, along with his wife former Prince George’s County councilwoman Leslie Johnson and a number of others were snagged in a corruption case over a year ago involving allegations of extortion, bribery, evidence and witness tampering and conspiracy.

Jack Johnson faces up to 14 years in jail for orchestrating a years-long pay-to-play scheme throughout his two terms in office, according to The Washington Post.

He accepted up to $1 million in kickbacks from developers and others in the county to whom he delivered favors, as detailed in the sentencing document by federal prosecutors.

Stay tuned to Patch for the latest.

Ms. G December 06, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Thank you for the up to the minute updates!
Sharp Shooter December 06, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Parkinson's MY A$$ !!!! He's an alcoholic with DT's (per the prosecution) and is now pulling every last trick he (or Billy Martin for that matter) can come up with to keep his ever-so-derserving butt out of jail. He sure as heck didn't need that cane when he was grabbed that $15k.
Marcus Afzali December 06, 2011 at 05:08 PM
I know legally you can't take the actions of Leslie Johnson into account here for the sentancing - but the fact that she took office knowing she had committed this crime with her husband - the fact she continued drawing a salary (paid for by county tax payers) for months instead of immediatly resigning her seat - these actions show me the Jackson's do not care about the people of our county or feel true remorse for what they have done. I hope for a harsh sentance including years of jail time.
Ms. G December 06, 2011 at 05:15 PM
May have helped had he apologized to his victims first and left out the part about "I've lost everything -- my reputation, everything I've worked so hard for." Doesn't show remorse. My heart goes out to his family- and even him.
pgcoresident December 06, 2011 at 06:09 PM
$100,000 fine?? that's it??? he should be forced to pay every cent he received in bribes to the citizens of the county. One single check he collected in bribery was for $100,000--what about all the other money?? i'm disgusted, although not surprised.
Michael B. Cron December 06, 2011 at 11:37 PM
This is business as usual. We the people of Prince George's County are the victims here! Seven years is a slap on the wrist. Small business in this county was seriously jeopardized by Jackson's misdeeds. The stigma of this corruption will take many years to overcome.
Sarah Nemeth December 06, 2011 at 11:46 PM
Ms. G, You are so welcome! It was a very intense day and a compelling story to be working on. Thank you for reading Patch! Sarah
Big Wayne December 07, 2011 at 01:43 AM
7 years Jack and you can run again, you'll be welcome with open arms. You done did good things for PG.
Lee Havis December 07, 2011 at 11:32 AM
We, the people of PG county have only ourselves to blame. The failure was complete, from top to bottom. The people that voted for him (twice); knowing the allegations and seeing the evidence as reported it was clear the man was flawed. Blame is also deserved for those who might have stood against his actions more openly, but nonetheless ran with him on a slate under the banner of "Democrat" - and then blame for anyone other than the "Democrats" who failed to put up a strong alternative. As Jackson showed little (if any) remorse for the evil he inflicted on the people here, so too the people who supported him and bought into his evil remain pretty much as before - waiting for the next liar in chief to come along to pass out goodies and play the game again. We all have a lot of shame to bear for the total disgrace and failure of civilized society in this county and state.
Danny December 07, 2011 at 01:35 PM
and, amazingly, one PG county district elected his own wife to public office after years of corruption by her husband. a true embarrassment.
Glenn Harris December 07, 2011 at 02:52 PM
I believe that Chris Core (WTOP) has said that Jack Johnson will still draw a retirement check on the order of $50K annually. He was, if I understand correctly, grandfathered in despite a recent change in (state?) ethics laws. Crime does pay, after all!
Pachacutec December 07, 2011 at 06:21 PM
I agree; and just how many of those 7 years does anyone seriously think he'll be in jail? I'm betting 2 at the absolute maximum. As politicians are elected to create and enforce the laws of our land, I think they should be held MORE accountable for their actions than the rest of us, no matter what level of government they're in, no matter what political party.
Lee Havis December 07, 2011 at 06:39 PM
And, in the special election to replace Ms. Jackson, what are the "bonavides" of the newly elected county council member? Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss??? The information I have is that the new representative has essentially the same nature and character of Ms. Jackson before - a special interest, self-interested politician, whose service can be reliably expected to follow the same essential pattern as before. I understand there was a choice of a more honorable (honest) person, but he was defeated - apparently didn't suit the majority of voters in the district. It looks like the inmates in the insane asylym have again chosen one of their own. What are the demographics of this district? If everyone there on drugs, kool-aid, and welfare? Is there anyone in the district who has the capacity to think for themselves? who functions in the world where honest work, integrity, truth, and character has any real value and meaning? Just asking....
Danny December 07, 2011 at 06:48 PM
did you happen to mean "ms. johnson"?
Lee Havis December 07, 2011 at 07:08 PM
sorry - yes "Ms Johnson" It will be interesting to see the treatment that she gets by the courts. In the end, we must learn from these experiences - to get more involved in the way government is conducted. It is very informative to hear the excuses and reasons that people give for voting for these people. Humanity is still, apparently, very immature; that's why politicians keep lying and painting "rosey scenarios" -- people want to believe in Santa Claus.
Tea L December 08, 2011 at 09:17 AM
Thank you to the FBI, which is what it took to get him. But it kills me, everybody "knew" he was corrupt, but the machine just kept him at the top to get elected and reelected, along with his wife. Corruption through and through, and no one strong enough to overturn the tide until he termed out. Who did the voter really have to choose from then? Hope you rot in jail Johnson. Also, Thank you Judge Messite for refusing house arrest.
Lee Havis December 08, 2011 at 10:46 AM
It is interesting to see just how little "speaking up" against Johnson there was. His political pals were afraid they wouldn't get his "favor" I suppose. In writing a letter to him, I definately got the idea that he was certifiably insane - like smoking dope. The people around him just absolutely incompetent. When I asked community associations to sign a petition to investigate his obvious failures, there was almost total silence. So, the depth of timidity is deep and wide. It's like the people of PG are just sheep fit for slaughter - not a lot of civic spirit, to say the least. It's a wonder there is any civic society at all. Of course, it's no wonder that PG ranks very high in numbers of gang members - not much character building in the home of the youth who are left to wander the streets to get some sense of community.
madmary March 10, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I am a former PG County resident and I live in Anne Arundel Co. where our current county executive is indicted on charges. It seems that corruption is everywhere int he state.


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