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Posted at 01:14 PM ET, 05/02/2011

Leslie Johnson plea hearing canceled

A Wednesday hearing at which Prince George’s County Council member Leslie Johnson was expected to enter a guilty plea in connection with a sweeping corruption probe has been canceled, federal prosecutors in Maryland said.

Johnson (D-Mitchellville), 59, and her husband, former county executive Jack B. Johnson (D), 61, were arrested in November as part of an investigation into whether public officials in the county accepted and solicited bribes.

In March, prosecutors filed a criminal information charging Leslie Johnson with conspiracy to commit witness and evidence tampering, a legal step that means a defendant is likely to enter a guilty plea. Sources close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity said that at the time, Johnson’s legal team was negotiating a deal with prosecutors.

Johnson’s defense attorney Shawn M. Wright could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland said the hearing was canceled, but declined further comment.

Robert C. Bonsib, a criminal defense attorney who worked as a federal prosecutor and is not involved in the case, said one possibility for the cancelation is that attorneys on both sides were unable to agree on the details of a plea deal.

“Typically, when a criminal information is filed is suggests as plea has been agreed to,” Bonsib said. “When the plea hearing is canceled, it suggest the agreement has fallen apart, though there are other possibilities.”

The case against Leslie Johnson is part of a six-year corruption investigation that prosecutors say involves other county officials and business people. The probe revealed that developers and others had been "regularly providing things of value" to public officials in return for favors, prosecutors said.

In addition to Leslie and Jack Johnson, seven other people, including three Prince George’s County police officers, have been charged in connection with the broad investigation.

The charges against Leslie Johnson stem from her alleged actions the day of her Nov. 12 arrest. According to court papers, she was overheard on a wiretap conspiring with her husband to flush a $100,000 check from a developer down the toilet and hide $79,600 in her undergarments.

Jack Johnson was indicted Feb. 14 on bribery charges, and prosecutors allege he accepted more than $200,000 from a developer in return for favors. He pleaded not guilty and said he will fight the charges.

By  |  01:14 PM ET, 05/02/2011

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