Timeline: Former Brunswick D.A. Jackie Johnson case, connection to Arbery murder investigation

Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 1:12 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 29, 2022 at 12:53 PM EST
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BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WTOC) - Former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson was set to go before a judge on Dec. 29 for a hearing for charges connected to the Ahmaud Arbery case.

That hearing has been postponed and Superior Court Judge John R. Turner has not set a new date. The hearing was canceled after the defense requested a continuance due to a conflict, according to Attorney General Chris Carr’s office.

Johnson is charged with meddling in the police investigation of the 2020 killing of Arbery.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office is prosecuting the case against former DA Jackie Johnson, who has denied any wrongdoing.

AG Carr’s office says Johnson waived arraignment and has pleaded not guilty.

Johnson has not appeared in court since she was indicted in September 2021 on charges of violating her oath of office and hindering police investigating Arbery’s killing.

The day Arbery was killed, Greg McMichael, one of the three men convicted of Arbery’s murder and federal hate crime charges, called Johnson.

She didn’t answer, so he left her a voicemail saying, “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, asking him to review the Arbery shooting and advise Glynn County Police on the case, according to a legal filing by prosecutors. It’s something they claim is a violation of her oath.

Four days after Arbery’s death, Johnson sent a recusal letter to be removed from the case due to a conflict of interest because Greg McMichael had worked with Johnson in the D.A.’s office as an investigator. State prosecutors say the problem is Johnson had already asked another DA to review the case and that second DA said the killing of Arbery was justified before Johnson recused herself when she should’ve gone to the state first.

Between February 23, 2020 and May 5, 2020, Johnson and McMichael made 16 phone calls to each other.

It wasn’t until September of 2021 that Jackie Johnson was indicted by a grand jury. Six days later, on Sept. 8, Johnson was booked into the Glynn County Jail and released that same day on a $10,000 bond.

What to expect when case goes to court

It’s already been 14 months since a grand jury indicted Jackie Johnson on charges of hindering the investigation.

WTOC spoke with criminal defense lawyer, Michael Schiavone who says he is not at all surprised this process is taking so long.

Schiavone is a lawyer in Savannah and is not involved in this case but has some thoughts on why it is taking so long for Jackson’s case. He says there are a number of contributing factors including the backlog of cases because of the pandemic.

Also, in most jurisdictions, cases with defendants who are still in custody move faster than people who have bonded out of jail. That includes Johnson who is still out on bond.

And finally, just the fact this case is so rare because a former district attorney was indicted on charges of hindering an investigation.

“This is going to be for sure a highly publicized case, it would I assume gain national attention so you are going to have a lot of those variables entering into it on scheduling and things of that nature,” he said.

He thinks whenever the hearing is rescheduled, it could still be a while, even another year before the trial begins.

You can see Jackie Johnson’s connection to the Ahmaud Arbery death investigation in the timeline below and in past stories:

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