The men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery are not the only ones facing prison time for the February 2020 murder. Former Georgia District Attorney Jackie Johnson was arrested for her role in delaying justice for the Black man, who was chased and killed while running through a mostly white neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia.
According to a grand jury indictment, Johnson violated her oath by “showing favor and affection” to Gregory McMichael and “failing to treat Arbery and his family fairly and with dignity.” It also said she obstructed police by “directing that Travis McMichael should not be placed under arrest.” Johnson also lost her reelection bid last November because of the Arbery case.
It took more than two months after Arbery’s killing for arrests to be made. His family and supporters have called for Johnson to be penalized for what she did.
“She should spend time in prison,” said Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother. “Her actions are not just acts of negligence, but she actively worked to cover up the murder.”
Gregory McMichael had worked in Johnson’s office in Glynn County as an investigator up until 2019 and was a former police officer. McMichael reportedly called Johnson after the murder, leaving a message seeking advice.
“Jackie, this is Greg,” CNN reports McMichael said in the voice message. “Could you call me as soon as you possibly can? My [inaudible] and I been involved in a shooting and I need some advice right away. Could you please call me, as soon as you possibly can? Thanks. Bye.”
Johnson has denied any wrongdoing, saying she recused her office from the case immediately because of her relationship with McMichael. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr launched a grand jury and Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) investigation into her actions. Carr announced the indictment on Sept. 2.
Johnson was arrested for violation of oath of a public officer and obstruction and hindering a law enforcement officer on Sept. 8. She was released on a $10,000 bond. Johnson will face one to five years if convicted for violating her oath and up to one year in prison for hindering law enforcement.
“Yesterday was a very huge win,” Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, told reporters a day after the indictment was announced. “I’m speechless. Unfortunately, Ahmaud is not here with us today. But losing Ahmaud, it will change some things here in the state of Georgia.”
The GBI is also investigating another former top law enforcement official’s mishandling of Arbery’s case. Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill told the Glynn County Police Department there was “insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrants” for the men accused in his killing because they were attempting to detain Arbery for a citizen’s arrest. Barnhill recused himself from the case after facing pressure from Arbery’s mother. Barnhill’s son had worked in Johnson’s office with Gregory McMichael.
“It appears Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and Bryan William (sic) were following, in ‘hot pursuit, a burglary suspect, with solid first-hand probable cause, in their neighborhood, and asking/ telling him to stop. It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived. Under Georgia law, this is perfectly legal,” Barnhill wrote to Glynn County Police.
The trio was ultimately arrested after the video of the event, captured by William “Roddie” Bryan, was shared by Bryan with the public. Bryan joined the McMichaels’ pursuit of Arbery in his pickup truck and admitted to trapping the former athlete so that the other men could catch up with him.
They believed he was responsible for a burglary in the neighborhood. Their attorneys also argued in court that it was an attempted citizen’s arrest. However, a jury disagreed and convicted the men of murder and other charges. They had never witnessed Arbery stealing anything and had not called the police before chasing him.
A petition was created two years ago for Barnhill’s disbarment.
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