Leslie Johnson, 60, made international news last year when she flushed a $100,000 check down the toilet and hid $79,600 in cash in her bra and underwear as federal agents pounded on the door of the couple’s Mitchellville home.
In court Friday, Johnson (D), apologized for her actions and described herself as a “woman of integrity, a woman of service, a woman who genuinely cares for the lives of others.” She said she was in the dark about bribes that prosecutors said netted her husband as much as $1 million over the course of years.
“I refused to allow my aberrant behavior to define me,” she said. “The truth is that I was a full-time working mother of three children while Jack was in office. I could not and did not focus on Jack’s activities because I was focused on my family’s needs.”
Messitte, who on Tuesday sentenced Jack Johnson (D) to more than seven years in prison, said her account “does not compute.”
“Clearly, she knew. I cannot accept the defendant’s explanation today that she did not,” he said. “She knew she was dealing with tainted money.”
The Johnsons’ sentences, 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. Prosecutors said the investigation is continuing, leaving open the possibility that others in county politics and business could be implicated.
Prosecutor David Copperthite said Leslie Johnson was aware of her husband’s activities and understood what she was doing when she destroyed evidence. “She wasn’t just obstructing the crimes of her husband,” Copperthite said. “She was obstructing her own crimes.”
Messitte agreed with prosecutors. “Mrs. Johnson,” the judge said as he explained the sentence, “you are not an innocent spouse, you were a complicit spouse.”
Leslie Johnson is to report to prison March 9 and will be eligible for release after 10 months, Messitte said. She had asked to remain free on probation, saying she needs to care for her 91-year-old mother, an ill sister and a son in his 20s, who is in graduate school and lives at home.
Copperthite described Johnson as “very cool, very calculated,” when she was overheard consulting with her husband as he advised her to tear up a $100,000 check from Laurel physician Mirza Baig, who has been convicted in connection with the probe, and help locate cash hidden in the house. She then tried to leave undetected by federal agents and with nearly $80,000 in cash stuffed in her underwear.