Prince George's County Council member Leslie Johnson, who is expected to appear in federal court Thursday to face charges of witness tampering and destruction of evidence, set off a flurry of questions Wednesday night when her council office sent out an invitation to a "business card exchange" for residents to meet with county officials who handle small-business issues, and minority contracting.

Johnson (D-Mitchellville) was arrested Nov. 12 along with her husband, then-County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), in a wide- ranging federal probe that included allegations that Jack Johnson had shaken down developers from his first days in office.

The scheduled hearing usually signals that a defendant intends to enter a guilty plea and has reached a deal with prosecutors. No deal is final until a defendant admits guilt in court and a judge approves the agreement.

If Leslie Johnson were to plead guilty to a felony, she would have to step down under Maryland law. But her e-mail suggested she may plan to be in office on July 23, the date for the event, which is to be held at Prince George's Community College.

Jack Johnson has pleaded guilty to extortion and witness tampering and is to be sentenced on Sept. 15.

PHOTOS: The career, and arrest, of Jack B. Johnson