Johnson pleads not guilty to all federal charges
Former county executive says he is flabbergasted' by allegations
Former Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) pleaded not guilty in federal court Tuesday to charges of bribery, extortion and conspiracy related to alleged dealings with developers during his eight-year tenure at the county's helm.
Johnson, 61, a former county state's attorney, is the husband of County Councilwoman Leslie E. Johnson (D-Dist. 6) of Mitchellville. His plea in the Greenbelt courtroom was his first public appearance since his arrest by federal agents in November. His wife did not attend the hearing.
During the arraignment, prosecutors said they plan to submit additional wiretaps in the next week as evidence.
After the hearing, Johnson did not address the specific charges against him, but said, "I don't even recognize the person being charged in these indictments."
"I spent 30 years of my professional life providing services to the residents of Prince George's County. To learn now that I've been doing something wrong, I'm just flabbergasted," he said.
William R. Martin, Jack Johnson's lawyer, said they plan to file motions soon to fight the wiretaps used in the prosecution.
"The government has had a five- or six-year head start on us. They have been listening to Jack Johnson's phone calls for more than a year. This is the day we begin to fight these charges," Martin said.
No court date has been set for Johnson, who requested a jury trial at the hearing.
If convicted, he could get up to five years in jail for the conspiracy charge, a $250,000 fine; up to 20 years in prison for each of the three counts of extortion; up to 10 years and another $250,000 for each of the three counts of bribery; and up to 20 years on charges of witness and evidence tampering.
According to the indictment, Johnson, along with a former housing director, allegedly collected more than $205,000 in payments from two developers in exchange for helping the developers receive millions in federal housing grants. FBI agents allegedly recorded Johnson brokering deals and planning how to get more money from developers over the past year.
Johnson and his wife were charged Nov. 12 with witness and evidence tampering, after FBI agents entered Jack Johnson's county office after allegedly recording him receiving a large check from an unnamed developer. Johnson then allegedly called his wife, who had been recently elected to the County Council, and told her to destroy a $100,000 check and hide cash in her underwear.
The Johnsons were released on their own recognizance, according to media reports, and Jack Johnson was required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet until Dec. 30. The charges of bribery, extortion and conspiracy against Jack Johnson were added Feb. 14.