Jackie Johnson

The Glynn County district attorney who was voted out of office last November for her controversial handling of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing has been indicted on a felony charge for violating her oath of office in relation to the case.

Former D.A. Jackie Johnson is accused of violating “her oath of office by showing ‘favor and affection’ to Greg McMichael during the investigation into the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery,” according to the indictment published by Georgia’s attorney general, Chris Carr.

McMichael, who previously worked for the D.A.’s office and has close ties to Glynn County police, is one of three suspects facing murder charges and separate federal hate crimes charges for allegedly killing Arbery. 

Johnson, a Woodbine native, served for 10 years as the senior prosecutor for the circuit that covers Camden, Glynn, Appling, Jeff Davis and Wayne counties before the spotlight of the Arbery case changed her political fortunes. 

It is unclear whether she has retained counsel in light of the charges made public Tuesday, and she could not be immediately reached for comment.

Last year, while on the campaign trail to retain her job, she told a Jesup radio station that she did nothing wrong in her handling of the Arbery investigation. 

“The one mistake I made in this case was trying to be helpful to the police,” she told WIFO-FM. “I was trying to do a good deed and get them some help and guidance to help them do their job. It’s now being used against me.”

It took 74 days after Arbery was shot and killed for law enforcement to make any arrests in the case, despite the fact that Glynn County police had interviewed the three suspects immediately after Arbery died and had reviewed a video shot by one of the three men accused of chasing, fighting and killing the young Black jogger. 

From left to right, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, William “Roddie” Bryan

McMichael left a voicemail for Johnson on the day of the shooting. His son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, have pleaded not guilty to state charges of murder and federal hate crimes charges. All three are white.

Attorney General Carr’s Prosecution Division presented evidence to a Glynn County grand jury over several months, resulting in Johnson’s indictment on two charges. The GBI assisted in the investigation and serving Glynn County police, employees of the Brunswick district attorney’s office and neighboring circuits had been called in to testify, according to Carr’s office.

The first charge filed against Johnon — Violation of Oath of Public Officer — is a felony that carries a prison sentence of 1 to 5 years. The second charge —Obstruction and Hindering a Law Enforcement Officer – is a misdemeanor that carries up to 12 months.

“Our office is committed to ensuring those who are entrusted to serve are carrying out their duties ethically and honestly,” Carr said in a statement. “While an indictment was returned today, our file is not closed, and we will continue to investigate in order to pursue justice.” 

The Arbery case was one of several scandals that dogged Johnson’s career as top prosecutor in Glynn County. But it was public outrage about the Arbery case that brought Brunswick and Glynn County to a crisis point, especially when the video of the killing was leaked by a local radio station. 

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper, and members of Brunswick’s Black community believe that Johnson and law enforcement were covering up possible misdeeds by one of their own. 

In a separate civil case pending against Glynn County, lawyers representing Cooper contend that police had deputized the McMichaels to keep the streets safe in their subdivision known as Satilla Shores, the area where Arbery was shot dead. 

Johnson recused herself from the investigation, and asked a neighboring district attorney to take over. The case was eventually given to a third D.A., which also had a conflict of interest, as his son was a prosecutor in Johnson’s office. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation finally stepped in to conduct the criminal inquiry and a fourth D.A. brought murder charges last year.