Jack Johnson sentenced to more than 7 years
Jack Johnson’s fall from Prince George’s County Executive to felon became complete Tuesday after a judge sentenced him to more than seven years in prison.
Johnson, facing extortion and bribery charges in federal court, earlier pleaded guilty to one count of extortion and one count of evidence tampering.
He was also fined $100,000. He must surrender to authorities by January 2012.
"You were not elected to line your pockets," said U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte.
The former Prince George's County Executive, who served from 2002-2010, appeared "thin and gaunt" when he arrived in court on Tuesday morning. The 62-year-old Johnson was walking with cane when he arrived in Greenbelt.
During the extended sentencing hearing, Johnson's defense said that sending their client to prison would be a death sentence, because Johnson had developed Parkinson's disease.
"Jack Johnson could have been a role model for integrity, but he chose to be a poster child for greed," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "The facts of this case read like a dime novel because the defendant acted as if corruption was the normal way of doing business. It is our responsibility to prove him wrong."
Government, defense clash over possible diagnosis
During the sentencing, Johnson's attorney, Jeff Harding, said that Johnson had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in April, and that prison would be a "death sentence."
Harding said that doctors at Baylor University diagnosed him with an uncurable form of the disease in April. He says that doctors say Johnson is "going downhill."
"Prison doesn't make any sense," Harding told U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte. "He would go off to some federal penitentiary and die."
But prosecutors quickly refuted that, saying that Johnson has hypertension and an anxiety disorder, and the defense admitted that Johnson had been drinking heavily.
The government also said that Johnson played golf in July, just 7 days after being diagnosed with symptoms of Parkinson's. However, prosecutors say that a doctor said in early November that Johnson's condition could at some point develop into the full-blown disease.
Authorities said that not long after taking office in 2002, Johnson began to squeeze developers for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts in exchange for government favors.
FBI surveillance footage shows Johnson bragging that as he nears the end of his eight years as county executive, he hasn't been caught taking bribes like the one he'd come to collect at the establishment in the video.
In a now infamous wiretap audio recording of Johnson and his wife Leslie Johnson, the couple can be heard talking about hiding cash as federal authorities are about to search their home in November 2010.
"Put it in your bra and walk out or something, I don't know what to do," Jack Johnson told his wife.
Agents who eventually searched Leslie Johnson recovered $79,600 from her underwear. The FBI was using court-approved wire taps to record the conversation.
Leslie Johnson pleaded guilty in June to destroying evidence. She’s expected to be sentenced on Dec. 9.
Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.