Johnson’s guilty plea comes six weeks after her husband, former county executive Jack B. Johnson (D), was convicted of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes from developers during two terms as the county’s top official. Leslie Johnson (D-Mitchellville) admitted in court that she tried to cover up those bribes by flushing a $100,000 check down the toilet and stuffing $79,600 in her underwear as federal agents knocked at her door.
The Johnsons’ convictions, after a six-year federal corruption investigation, mark the fall of an ambitious power couple who were known as public faces of African American success in Prince George’s.
“The evidence shows that Jack Johnson and Leslie Johnson are guilty of a disgraceful abuse of the trust placed in them by the citizens of Prince George’s County,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said Thursday.
Leslie Johnson, a lawyer and former administrative law judge in the District, briefly addressed reporters as she left U.S. District Court in Greenbelt but would not take questions. Her husband didn’t accompany her, but she was flanked by two lawyers and her minister.
“There is nothing I can do or say that would make this day any less difficult,” Johnson said, reading prepared remarks. “I made a mistake.” But she asked to be defined by the “countless days, months and years” she has spent helping county residents.
“I look forward to continuing to serve and help the lives of those in need,” Johnson said.
Her attorney, Shawn M. Wright, later said that Johnson intends to stay in her council seat, a position that pays $96,417, until her sentencing hearing Oct. 13. Prosecutors said they would seek a jail sentence of 12 to 18 months.
Under Maryland law, elected officials convicted of felonies must step down. But a conviction is not considered final until sentencing, which would give Johnson 31
2 more months in office and about $28,000 in before-tax income, as well as the opportunity to vote on key issues.
The amount of time between the conviction and sentencing hearing in Johnson’s case is typical in federal court cases, allowing time for both sides to prepare.
Several people have said they would seek Johnson’s seat in a special election.
Baker said he spoke by phone with Johnson on Thursday and asked her to step aside. He said she was composed but noncommittal about her plans.
“It is in the best interest of the county and of the residents of District 6,” Baker said. “We know there is going to be a special election. It is going to happen. It would be better for the residents of District 6 to get on with the process.”