Leslie Johnson, Wife Of Former Prince George's County Executive, Sentenced To 1 Year and 1 day in Jail; 15k Fine

7:15 PM, Dec 9, 2011   |    comments
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GREENBELT, Md. (WUSA) -- Former Prince George's County council member Leslie Johnson was sentenced to 12 months and one day in jail for her role in obstructing an investigation into her husband's corruption. She will have to serve 2 years of supervised release and perform 240 hours of community service. Johnson must also pay a $15,000 fine.

There is the possibility that she could be free from jail in 10 months.

Leslie Johnson has admitted flushing an illicit $100,000 bribe check down the toilet, as FBI agents arrived at her home. She also stuffed nearly $80,000 in her bra.

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Johnson's husband, former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson, was sentenced Tuesday to more than seven years in prison.

Leslie Johnson arrived Friday morning at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt with a smaller entourage than Jack Johnson had for his sentencing. She made no comments to the media on her way inside.

The prosecution said to the court in opening statements that the cime was "not just a one time thing" and "not a mistake." It said that Leslie Johnson was not just trying to save her husband, Jack Johnson. Furthermore, it claimed that she was trying to obstruct her own crimes and that "we wouldn't know the extent of [her] involvement without [the] wire tap."  According to the prosecution, 20 percent of her campaign donations came from contributors with corrupt relationships with Jack Johnson.

She could serve a sentence of between a year to 18 months for Johnson, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

The prosecution has asked that Leslie Johnson be sentenced to the high end of the federal guidelines and have to pay a fine of $30,000.

Defense attorney Shawn Wright says Leslie Johnson should only get probation. He says the destruction of evidence was a "thoughtless and instinctive reaction to help her husband of 35 years." According to the defense, "Ms. Johnson had no information on her husband's pay to play scheme." It added, "Jack Johnson should be the only one held accountable for corrupt actions."

Before the defense completed its argument, it called a witness to the stand. Christopher Cephas took the stand. He is related to Leslie Johnson through marriage, and was the treasurer for her campaign.

Concerning Leslie Johnson's campaign, Cephas said, "Cash contributions were handled differently then check. Cash ranged from $20 to $100." When the defense asked him if he was ever asked to do anything he was uncomfortable with during Leslie Johnson's campaign, he responded, "Not that I know of." He also said that Johnson refused a contribution from an individual of questionable character and that she ran a clean campaign. Cephas added that if there had been anything improper about the campaign then he would have resigned.

The judge asked the defense to explain how or why they believe Leslie Johnson didn't know anything when she asked her husband if she should flush the $100,000 check. The defense replied that there has never been evidence shown that Johnson had knowledge of how her husband was soliciting campaign funds on her behalf. Also it said that Johnson's statement repeatedly of "oh my God" clearly indicates her surprise about the FBI agents at her house. In addition, the defense argued that the evidence doesn't show that she knew how much money was in the basement or where it came from.

The prosecution then countered with, "to say that this was an act that occurred in 10 minutes is ludicrous. She didn't ask one time 'what's going on.'"

Leslie Johnson took the stand after a 10 minute break in court. She said, "I am extremely sorry for and ashamed of my conduct... I did not know anything about the criminal conduct my husband engaged in...Had I known about my husband's corrupt actions, I'd hope that I would have had the courage to do something about it."

She testifed that she ran for county council so she could be of service to the community and that she genuinely wanted to improve the lives of others. Then she again told the court how sorry she was for her actions.

The judge then addressed the court about sentencing guidelines. He said that couldn't accept the defense's attempts to say that Leslie Johnson didn't know about Jack Johnson's illegal activity when she clearly knew.

The judge addressed Leslie Johnson directly, saying, "Ms. Johnson, you were not an innocent spouse; you were a complicit spouse."

She was then sentenced to more than a year in jail to be followed by supervised release and community service. She will also have to pay a fine.

Following her sentencing, Leslie Johnson avoided the media and slipped out the back door of the courthouse into a white Suburban.

Leslie Johnson was elected to the county council just before her arrest in November 2010 and stepped down in July after pleading guilty.

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