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AG prosecutors detail their case against former Brunswick DA

Former DA Jackie Johnson is charged in her handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 10:45 AM EDT
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GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Two years ago today - the video of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery was leaked online and shocked the nation.

The video is what prompted investigators with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the case and how it was handled.

Details about the investigation into possible prosecutorial misconduct are part of a new court filing by the Georgia Attorney General’s Office in the criminal case against former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson. The May 4th filing is in response to a March 23 motion by Johnson’s defense attorneys to dismiss the criminal case against her.

Evidence detailed in the court filing shows 16 phone calls were made between Johnson and her former investigator Greg McMichael - who worked in the DA’s office for more than 20 years. The call log shows McMichael called Johnson almost immediately after the shooting on Feb 23, 2020.

She didn’t answer, so he left her a voicemail.

“Jackie, this is Greg. Can you call me as soon as you possibly can? Um, my friend and I have been involved in a shooting and I need some advice right away. Can you please call me as soon as you possibly can? Thanks Bye.”

Johnson didn’t call him back, but she did contact Waycross DA George Barnhill that day. She asked him to review the Arbery shooting and advise Glynn County Police on the case, according to the May 4th legal filing by prosecutors. It’s something they claim is a violation of her oath.

“Rather, instead of using the lawful conflict procedure and immediately notifying the Attorney General’s Office, DA Johnson allowed DA Barnhill to render a decision on the case – a decision that she classified as urgent.”

The next day on Feb 24th, Barnhill determined the shooting was justified and no one was arrested.

According to the call log - Johnson called McMichael that evening and they had a 9 minute and 15 seconds phone call.

Johnson’s attorneys have said she “immediately recused her office from any involvement with this death investigation on the day Mr. Arbery was killed and did not participate in the investigation.”

In the court filing, prosecutors contend she was the DA since her recusal letter to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office wasn’t sent until Feb. 27 - four days after the shooting.

They also accuse her of failing to disclose that Barnhill had already reviewed the case and declared the case to be self-defense.

“Thus, Johnson effectively chose the outcome of the case despite having a conflict...”

Johnson was familiar with the conflict procedure outlined in state code because she had used it 25 times during her tenure as district attorney, according to the AG’s response filed in court on Wednesday.

McMichael and Johnson exchanged 14 more calls after the recusal. The last call included in the prosecution’s response filing was made on May 5th - the day the video of Arbery’s killing went public.

According to the filing, McMichael called Johnson to thank her for referring him to a prosecutor in George Barnhill’s Office for legal advice.

By then, Barnhill had recused himself.

According to the filing, Johnson didn’t answer McMichael’s call so he left a voicemail:

“He’s gonna run interference for me right now, and that’s damn good advice, and I appreciate that very much.”

By then, the video had gone viral and national outrage was building.

Two days later, the GBI arrested McMichael, his son Travis, and neighbor William Roddie Bryan, Jr. on murder charges.

A Glynn County grand jury indicted Johnson in March of last year.

Prosecutors say she has not been arraigned in the case.

Call logs included in the court filing show 16 phone calls between Johnson and McMichael from...
Call logs included in the court filing show 16 phone calls between Johnson and McMichael from Feb 23, 2020 to May 5, 2020.(Georgia AG)

Read the AG’s full response below:

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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