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Jack Johnson Will Seek Reduced Sentence After Extortion Plea

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Former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson apologizes Tuesday after pleading guilty to two counts, surrounded by supporters and attorneys.
Armando Trull
Former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson apologizes Tuesday after pleading guilty to two counts, surrounded by supporters and attorneys.

”We've plead guilty -- we accept responsibility," Johnson said in a press conference after his re-arraignment yesterday.

Now that former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson has admitted to running a pay to play scheme that sold everything from building permits to legislation, Johnson's attorney, Billy Martin, is seeking a reduction in sentence.

Former exec. asks for leniency

Johnson wants the judge to reduce criminal penalties that could add up to $1 million and 13 years in prison.

"We will argue to Judge Messitte at that time to sentence the whole man," says Martin. "As you know Mr. Johnson has a history of public service."

But, prosecutors want a tough sentence and will tell the court that Johnson's entire term as county executive was corrupt. Investigators also said the investigation into county corruption will continue.

"Jack Johnson cheated the citizens of Prince George's County through crooked deals sealed with whispered conversations, quick handshakes, and under the table money," FBI Agent Leo Taddeo said after the plea.

Tuesday's plea does not affect the corruption case against Johnson's wife, Leslie Johnson, who is currently serving on the Prince George's County Council. Johnson has been charged as a co-conspirator after she is accused of destroying a check and hiding cash that her husband had kept in their home.

Former housing chief, developers, also plead guilty

During the May 17 arraignment, prosecutors revealed that three others, including the former head of the county's housing development agency, James Johnson -- no relation to the former county executive -- have also pleaded guilty in the Jack Johnson corruption investigation.

Information on the other guilty pleas came after the Federal Bureau of Investigation unsealed other cases related to the Johnson case. In addition to Johnson, who entered his plea in January, Dr. Mirza Hussain Baig, owner of the development company Baig Ventures, pleaded guilty April 11 to conspiracy to commit extortion.

Baig bribed Jack Johnson and James Johnson with anywhere from $400,000 to $1 million to obtain favors benefiting his development project between 1997 and 2008, according to the FBI.

Patrick Ricker, a developer that had been seeking to develop a multi-use development at Greenbelt Metropark, pleaded guilty to tax evasion and fraud in December 2009, according to the FBI. In his plea, Ricker admitted to "under-reporting his income by a total of more than $1.1 million," according to an FBI statement.

And the political bloodbath in P.G. County may not be over -- FBI and Internal Revenue Services officials say they are not finished with their investigation into the county's operations.

"While Jack Johnson's guilty plea today shines a bright light on the crimes he and his associates committed, it is not the end of the FBI's investigation into corruption in Prince George's County," FBI special agent in charge Richard McFeeley said after Johnson's plea. "The FBI will devote all available resources to bring corrupt public officials and their criminal associates to justice."

Johnson apologized to Prince Georges' County residents after his arraignment Tuesday. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 15.

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