A former Georgia prosecutor is facing five years in prison for allegedly obstructing police in arresting the man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery in February 2020.
Ex-Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson, 49, was arrested in early September and charged with violating her oath of office and hindering a law enforcement officer. While Johnson immediately recused herself from Arbery’s case due to her link to Gregory McMichael, she allegedly instructed Glynn County police not to arrest Gregory’s 34-year-old son, Travis — who shot Arbery, 25, three times at close range with a shotgun.
WRAL obtained an answering machine recording of Gregory McMichael — an hour after killing Arbery — asking Johnson to call him as soon as she can because he and his son were involved in a shooting.
The elder McMichael, 64, was an investigator for the Glynn County District Attorney’s office for 24 years until retiring in May 2019. Nine of those years were spent working for Johnson.
A grand jury alleged that on the day of the shooting, Johnson asked Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill to provide legal guidance to Glynn County police. After refusing herself, she allegedly recommended Barnhill to take the case — without disclosing their prior correspondence regarding Arbery’s case.
Attorney General Chris Carr said he did not know of Barnhill and Johnson’s conversations when he reassigned Arbery’s case to Barnhill. When Carr reassigned the case, he was reportedly also unaware of Barnhill previously advising Glynn County police that the shooting appeared to be self-defense which had occurred during a citizen’s arrest.
Barnhill also recused himself on April 7, 2020, saying that his son worked in Jonhson’s office and worked a prior case with George McMichael that involved prosecuting Arbery. Reports indicated that Barnhill knew of this conflict of interest early on — but he only resigned from the case following Arbery’s mother’s request to do so.
However, the Attorney General’s office said Barnhill never disclosed that he was involved in Arbery’s case before it was officially appointed to him. A day after Arbery’s murder, Barnhill allegedly told Glynn County police that he did not see any legal justification in arresting the three men involved in the fatal shooting.
Footage filmed by William Bryan Jr., 50, showing Arbery’s murder emerged in early May, months after Arbery’s shooting death. Amid nationwide outrage, the McMichaels were arrested two days later; Bryan is arrested weeks later.
On November 24, 2021, the McMichaels and Bryan are convicted of various charges in connection with Arbery’s slaying — including felony murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment. A sentencing date has not been set.
Johnson lost her re-election bid last November, with her handling of Arbery’s case being a central issue. She faces five years if convicted and is currently free on a $10,000 bond.
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[Featured Image: Jackie Johnson/Glynn County Sheriff’s Office; Ahmaud Arbery/Handout]