The former district attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit has been indicted for how she allegedly handled the case of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old black man who was fatally shot after a father and son pursued him through their neighborhood in early 2020. The father told police that he and his son were pursuing a suspect in a recent string of burglaries, but Arbery’s family maintains he was out for a jog.
The attorney, Jackie Johnson, received the case shortly after the incident and, during that time, sought the advice of another prosecutor, George Barnhill. Johnson, who previously worked in the same office as one of the suspects, then recused herself and handed the case to Barnhill without disclosing that she had previously sought his help with it.
Her actions amounted to “showing favor and affection” to the older suspect, according to the indictment.
“Our office is committed to ensuring those who are entrusted to serve are carrying out their duties ethically and honestly,” said state Attorney General Chris Carr in a statement released this week. “We thank the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Glynn County Grand Jury for their hard work. While an indictment was returned today, our file is not closed, and we will continue to investigate in order to pursue justice.”
“Although D.A. Johnson did not pull the trigger on the day Ahmaud was murdered, she played a starring role in the coverup,” said Attorney Benjamin Crump. “Ahmaud was stopped, gunned down and his killers were allowed to freely walk the streets for months.”
The shooting, which occurred in February 2020, gained widespread national attention after footage of Arbery’s final moments circulated online several months later.
The video shows Arbery running down the street in the direction of a white pickup truck, where Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael can be seen armed and waiting. When Arbery approaches the truck, he goes around the passenger’s side, and a struggle breaks out between him and Travis, who is holding a shotgun. Arbery is fatally shot during the encounter.
After Johnson recused herself, Barhill also recused himself at the request of Arbery’s mother. In his letter of recusal, he argued that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to make any arrests. The case has since been handed off to a third, and now fourth, prosecutor.
Two county commissioners accused Johnson’s office of telling police to not issue arrests in the case, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, allegations that Johnson then suggested were false. Johnson, however, has also been indicted for directing two Glynn County law enforcement officers to not arrest the younger McMichael, contrary to Georgia state law.
Johnson faces between 1 to 5 years if convicted of violating her oath of public office, and up to 12 months for hindering the law enforcement investigation by directing officers to not arrest a suspect.
Travis and Gregory McMichael have pleaded not guilty in Arbery’s death.