Jack Johnson Pleads Not Guilty in Pay-to-Play Case

Former Prince George's County executive says his reputation is at stake

Former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson pleaded not guilty to all charges in connection with a pay-to-play investigation that led to his arrest in November, NBC Washington's Chris Gordon reported.

At his arraignment, Johnson requested a speedy trial by jury. Afterward, he said he is disappointed in the charges and he will fight for his reputation.

"I don't even recognize the man charged in this indictment," Johnson said. "For the past 30 years I gave every effort of every minute to the citizens of Prince George's County  and to learn that I have been investigated for some six or seven years and in the last three months  these charges come about, you know we’re going to fight. My reputation is at stake, everything’s at stake."

Johnson and other state and local elected officials accepted campaign contributions above the state legal limits from developers and others in exchange for using their influence favorably, according to the indictment. Johnson and other officials allegedly concealed the excess contributions by failing to report them and misrepresenting them.

Johnson solicited campaign contributions for his wife, County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, from Amrik Sigh Melhi, who owns several liquor stores, and conspired with him to violate campaign finance laws, the indictment says.

Johnson also helped developers obtain federal grant money from the county for development projects, according to the indictment. In return, Johnson allegedly received cash and checks, including a check for $100,000.

When FBI agents executed a search warrant at the Johnsons' home, Jack Johnson allegedly told his wife over the phone to tear up that $100,000 check and flush it down the toilet and hide cash in her underwear.

Agents found about $79,600 on Leslie Johnson when they searched her, according to the FBI.

Jack Johnson is charged with conspiracy, extortion and bribery related to his position as county executive, and tampering with a witness and evidence. He left office when his second term expired in December. Leslie Johnson is charged with tampering with a witness and evidence relating to the commission of a federal offense; and destruction, alteration and falsification of records in a federal investigation.

"We’re going to attack the wiretaps and all of the info that has been used by the FBI in this investigation," said Jack Johnson's lawyer, William Martin. "This is the day we begin to fight these charges."

The motions in this case will be critical as the defense tries to get the wire taps excluded from evidence arguing they were illegally obtained, Gordon reported. Dates for the motion hearing and jury trial of Jack Johnson have not yet been scheduled.

Click here to read the indictment.

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