Johnson was the county’s top prosecutor at the time of Arbery’s murder last year. According to reports, one of the armed men who chased and killed Arbery had worked for her as an investigator. Further investigations into the incident and Johnson’s actions were pursued after Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr looked into possible misconduct by local prosecutors who failed to bring charges in the killing.
“Our office is committed to ensuring those who are entrusted to serve are carrying out their duties ethically and honestly,” Carr said in regards to the charges. “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.”
According to the indictment, Johnson violated her oath by “showing favor and affection” to Greg McMichael and “failing to treat Ahmaud Arbery and his family fairly and with dignity.” It also noted that she obstructed justice by “directing that Travis McMichael should not be placed under arrest.” Phone records in court also detailed calls made to Johnson by Greg McMichael soon after the shooting, the Associated Press reported.
When questioned about the allegations, Johnson insisted she did nothing wrong, claiming she immediately recused her office from handling the case since Greg McMichael had been a former employee.
However, the charges came as a win for the Arbery family and their attorneys, who had long suspected Johnson’s favoritism towards Arbery’s murderers.
“Yesterday was a very huge win,” Wanda Cooper Jones, Arbery’s mother, told reporters last week after the indictment was announced. “I’m speechless. Unfortunately, Ahmaud is not here with us today. But losing Ahmaud, it will change some things here in the state of Georgia.”
If convicted, Johnson would face one to five years in prison for violating her oath of office.
“She should spend time in prison,” said Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother. “Her actions are not just acts of negligence, but she actively worked to cover up the murder.”
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves with guns and chased Arbery in a pickup truck after they spotted him running in their neighborhood in February 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, then joined and took cellphone videos of Arbery being shot at close range. Because the footage was not released, the McMichaels claimed they believed Arbery was a burglar and shot him in self-defense; no arrests were made.
It wasn’t until the cellphone footage was shared online two months later that national outcries prompted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take over the case. Both McMichael men and Bryan are now in custody as they await trial on murder charges. They are expected to stand trial for murder in October and in February for federal hate crime charges.