Ex-prosecutor charged in Ahmaud Arbery case booked at jail

Free Press wire reports | 9/9/2021, 6 p.m.
The former prosecutor charged with misconduct for her handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case was booked at a Georgia jail …
Ahmaud Arbery

SAVANNAH, Ga. - The former prosecutor charged with misconduct for her handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case was booked at a Georgia jail on Wednesday and released.

Former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson turned herself in Wednesday morning at the Glynn County jail, county Undersheriff Ron Corbett said. Jail records show she was released on her own recognizance, meaning she did not have to pay a cash bond.

Jackie Johnson

Jackie Johnson

A grand jury indicted Ms. Johnson, 49, last week on a felony charge of violating her oath of office and a misdemeanor count of obstructing police.

Ms. Johnson was the area’s top prosecutor when three white men chased and fatally shot Mr. Arbery last year. The indictment alleges she used her position to discourage police from making arrests in the 25-year-old Black man’s killing. One of the armed men who pursued Mr. Arbery had worked for Ms. Johnson as an investigator.

Ms. Johnson did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday. Officials at the jail and the Glynn County Superior Court clerk’s office said their records did not list an attorney for her.

Mr. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, called Ms. Johnson’s Sept. 2 indictment “a very huge win.”

“I’m speechless, Ms. Jones told reporters during a video news conference last Friday. “Unfortunately, Ahmaud is not here with us today. But losing Ahmaud, it will change some things here in the state of Georgia.”

Greg McMichael and his grown son, Travis McMichael, armed themselves and pursued Mr. Arbery in a pickup truck on Feb. 23, 2020, after they spotted him running in their neighborhood just outside the port city of Brunswick, about 70 miles south of Savannah.

A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Mr.Arbery at close range with a shotgun. Greg McMichael told police they suspected Mr. Arbery was a burglar and Travis McMichael shot him in self-defense.

Prosecutors have said Mr. Arbery was unarmed and was carrying no stolen items when he was slain.

The McMichaels and Mr. Bryan weren’t charged in the killing until more than two months later, after the video was leaked online and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case. Now all three men are scheduled to stand trial this fall on murder charges.

Greg McMichael worked for Ms. Johnson as an investigator in the district attorney’s office before retiring in 2019. Phone records introduced in court show he called Ms. Johnson and left her a voicemail soon after the shooting.

Ms. Johnson previously has denied any wrongdoing, saying she recused her office from the case immediately because of its relationship with Greg McMichael.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office is prosecuting Ms. Johnson. Mr. Carr sought the misconduct investigation last year, saying the first outside prosecutor he appointed to handle the case had been recommended by Ms. Johnson, who never disclosed that she had already asked that prosecutor to advise police in the immediate aftermath of Mr. Arbery’s killing.

That outside prosecutor, Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, later recused himself — but not before sending a letter to Glynn police advising that he believed the shooting of Mr. Arbery was justified.

Ms. Johnson lost re-election last year and blamed controversy over Mr. Arbery’s death for her defeat.