Former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson was indicted Thursday on charges of violating her oath of office and hindering a law enforcement officer following an investigation into her office’s handling of the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia last year, the Associated Press reports.
The investigation found Johnson showed “favor and affection” toward Greg McMichael, one of the three men indicted on federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping charges in connection to Arbery’s death. McMichael worked as an investigator for Johnson prior to his retirement in 2019.
She maintained at the time that her participation in the case was “minimal,” pointing out that she not only recused herself but turned away Glynn County police who sought legal advice from her assistant prosecutors due to a conflict of interest.
Shortly after the incident, McMichael contacted Johnson, asking her to call him back while admitting to being involved in a shooting. “Jackie, this is Greg,” he said in the recorded call. “Could you call me as soon as you possibly can? My son and I have been involved in a shooting and I need some advice right away.” Phone records indicate she never called him back.
Johnson is also accused of interfering with police officers at the scene by “directing that Travis McMichael [Gregory’s son] should not be placed under arrest.” Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is asking the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to also look into Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill’s handling of the case because he received a call from Johnson regarding how to handle the shooting.
Barnhill recused himself from the case as well after Arbery’s family discovered that his son served as an assistant prosecutor for Johnson. Before stepping aside, Barnhill advised officers “that he did not see grounds for the arrest of any of the individuals involved in Mr. Arbery’s death.” Carr said he was unaware of this development when Barnhill was appointed to take up the case.
Barnhill also allegedly wrote a letter to the captain of the Glynn County police saying the McMichaels “were following, in ‘hot pursuit,’ a burglary suspect, with solid first hand probable cause, in their neighborhood, and asking/ telling him to stop,” and since “their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived,” their actions were “perfectly legal” under Georgia law.
Gregory and Travis McMichael, along with William “Roddie” Bryan, were formally charged nearly three months after the footage surfaced. They have all plead not guilty, claiming Arbery matched the description of a burglary suspect. Their trial is set to begin with jury selection in Feb. 2022.