Pr. George's Jack Johnson indicted on corruption charges

By Maria Glod and Ovetta Wiggins
Monday, February 14, 2011; 4:06 PM

Former Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson was indicted on Monday in federal court in Maryland on eight charges, including bribery, witness and evidence tampering and aiding and abetting.

Johnson, 61, a former prosecutor who was the county's top elected official from 2002 to 2010, is accused of playing a key role in a conspiracy that reaches deep into the ranks of power players in the tight-knit government and business communities.

Johnson, along with an unnamed public official, accepted things of value -- including money, trip expenses, airline tickets, rounds of golf, mortgage payments and in-kind campaign contributions -- from business owners and developers in return for official favors, the 31-page indictment states. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy lasted from 2003 until last November, almost through the entirety of Johnson's term.

The indictment doesn't name the other public official, but it says that the official was Johnson's housing director. James Johnson is the former director of the Prince George's County Department of Housing and Community Development.

Johnson, who is not related to the former county executive, was appointed by Jack Johnson and formally sworn in by the county council in November 2009. He served as acting director of the housing department and executive director of the Housing Authority since 2008.

Before his appointment, Johnson, a resident of Camp Springs, worked as a special assistant to the county executive.

The quid-pro-quos provided by Johnson and other officials included helping developers and business owners obtain jobs, business permits and county funding, the indictment states.

The indictment outlines a pay-to-play atmosphere in Prince George's during Johnson's eight years as county executive and for the first time charges Johnson with actually soliciting and receiving a bribe.

"Pay-to-play government is not democratic government," U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a written statement. "Anyone who seeks benefits or approvals from the government should be evaluated on the merits, without being extorted for payments or losing out to competitors who pay bribes. Government employees flagrantly abuse the public trust when they take money in return for official acts."

The indictment in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt comes three months after Johnson and his wife, Leslie, 58, a member of the County Council, were arrested at their brick colonial in Mitchellville. The couple were overheard on a wiretap plotting to hide $79,600 in cash in Leslie Johnson's bra and flush a $100,000 check from a developer down the toilet as FBI agents knocked at the door.

Jack Johnson could not immediately be reached for comment. But after his November arrest he proclaimed his innocence and said he was "absolutely convinced" he would be vindicated.

Leslie Johnson (D-Mitchellville), who was elected Nov. 2, has maintained her seat despite being stripped of some responsibility by the full council. She had been scheduled to appear in court this week, but was granted a delay until March 16 to have additional time to investigate the charges. She was not named as a defendant in the indictment.

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