It was a Friday in November 2010 when Prince George’s County was shaken by the arrest of sitting County Executive Jack B. Johnson. He and his wife were charged in federal court for tampering with evidence and attempting to destroy a bribe check.
That was the tip of the iceberg. Johnson faces sentencing Tuesday morning for orchestrating a years-long pay-to-play scheme throughout his two terms in office.
Johnson accepted up to $1 million in kickbacks from developers and others in the county to whom he delivered favors, as detailed in the sentencing document by federal prosecutors.
Johnson faces as many as 14 years in prison, according to The Washington Post.
His crimes are worthy of substantial prison time, according to federal prosecutors. His actions seriously damaged Prince George’s County, and any positive impacts Johnson had through his position should be irrelevant when determining his sentence, prosecutors wrote.
“Jack Johnson is not entitled to special credit for his work on behalf of the county, because that is what he was elected and paid to do,” according to prosecutors, who describe Johnson’s actions as solely based on greed, hypocrisy and self-delusion.
"Rumors have been floating around for months, but it's always a surprise when something like this happens," Bowie Mayor G. Fred Robinson told Patch the day Johnson was arrested.
But to many of his constituents, Johnson was a point of pride, a man who worked hard to become a public official to serve his people. Johnson’s father was a farmer and a dockworker; his mother was a maid and a cook, and neither had finished high school, according to Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy.
Milloy spoke with a group of senior citizen women about Johnson’s corruption.
“If his mother were still alive, she’d beat him with a broom,” Celestine Howell, 84, told Milloy.
But the residents of Prince George’s County loved him, wrote Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery for The Root, an African-American news and commentary publication. “He championed their cries against police brutality. He worshipped with them. He danced the electric slide at their backyard cookouts. He privately promised jobs to their children, and found money for their community projects. He wielded power the way so many wished they could.”
But federal prosecutors say that this man who became so loved was the mastermind behind “one of the most egregious and notorious instances of corruption and obstruction of justice in Maryland history.”
The complete sentencing document accompanies this post.