WASHINGTON — Former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson deserves a severe and lengthy prison sentence for orchestrating “one of the most egregious and notorious” corruption schemes in state history, federal prosecutors said.
A memorandum filed this week ahead of Johnson’s Dec. 6 sentencing hearing details Johnson’s role in a pay-to-play culture of government, describing how he routinely shook down developers and business owners for between $400,000 and $1 million in bribes and other luxuries.
“Jack Johnson’s venality adversely affected everyone who lived, worked and tried to do business in Prince George’s County,” prosecutors wrote in the 76-page memo. “During his eight-year tenure as the county’s leader, Jack Johnson criminally and shamelessly flouted the public trust and abused his lawful authority.”
Johnson, a Democrat, was elected county executive in 2002 after serving as the county’s top prosecutor. He was arrested with less than a month left in his second term. The charges were part of a sweeping federal probe that also ensnared liquor store owners, developers and a former county fire official, among others.
As county executive, prosecutors say, Johnson engaged in vast corruption that included steering millions of dollars in federal funds to select developers in exchange for bribes; working to secure a job at Prince George’s County Hospital for the relative of a developer who paid him bribes even though hospital officials said the family member was woefully unqualified; and amending regulations for a liquor store owner who was bribing him and purchasing contraband alcohol.
Johnson could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison. His lawyers are seeking for a shorter sentence.
A years-long investigation into county corruption became public in November 2010 when Johnson was caught on a phone call secretly recorded by the FBI directing his wife to destroy an illicit $100,000 check from a developer and to conceal nearly $80,000 in cash in her undergarments.
Leslie Johnson, a former county councilwoman, pleaded guilty in June to flushing the check down the toilet as federal agents closed in. Prosecutors are recommending a sentence at the high end of the guidelines range of a year to 18 months at her Dec. 9 sentencing.
Johnson’s attorneys did not immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday. They have urged a judge to credit him for his years of public service, an argument mocked by prosecutors.
“The defendant’s assertions that some good things were achieved during his tenure does not counterbalance his brazen and overarching extortion, bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice,” prosecutors wrote.