Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson is facing demands for her resignation over the way she handled the Ahmaud Arbery shooting death.
Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy sparked more outcries for her job after he claimed last week that Johnson told Glynn County police officers not to arrest Gregory McMichael and his adult son Travis after the Feb. 23 shooting.
Murphy also claimed Johnson diverted the case to Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George E. Barnhill.
Jim Stein, the Camden County lawyer representing Johnson, said he believes the statements that have drawn his client’s ire may have been made by commissioners in retaliation for the role she played in the indictment of Glynn County Police Chief John Powell.
Powell faces four counts of violation of oath by a public officer, two counts of influencing a witness and one count of criminal attempt to commit perjury. Stein wants the commissioners to retract their public statements.
“It’s a lie that she didn’t contact the Attorney General’s Office,” he said.
Johnson said criticism is part of the job, but Stein said she can’t ignore false accusations leveled against her by a public official. She has hired Stein to send formal notice to the county that comments made by Murphy and comments made by commissioner Allen Booker “amount to libel and slander.” The notice did not say why Booker was named in the notice or what he said.
“Your clients are put on notice that they should immediately cease and desist from making any statements that Jackie Johnson and/or anyone associated with the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office advised any law enforcement officials that no arrest should be made in the investigation pertaining to Ahmaud Arvery,” the notice said.
The notice was sent to Glynn County Attorney Aaron Mumford via fax, email, regular mail and certified mail.
Mumford said he could not comment because it’s an ongoing legal issue.
Stein, in his notice to the county, said defamed public officials can sue for damages upon showing actual malice.
“While there is leeway to criticize public officials, malice is an exception and you don’t get a hall pass because the malicious statements were made against public officials,” Stein said. Stein said the next step will be a lawsuit if the commissioners continue to make inaccurate or false claims about the way Johnson handled the investigation and fail to make a retraction.
According to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, Johnson advised the state’s top legal officer she had a conflict and asked the office to appoint another prosecutor.
Joe East, president of the Camden County Bar Association and criminal attorney, said he has faced Johnson in the courtroom and respects her ability as district attorney.
“Jackie, what she did, was required and proper,” he said. “She immediately recused herself from the case. There’s no way she could have gotten out any faster.”
Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael remain in the Glynn County Detention Center. Each is charged with felony murder and aggravated assault in the death of Arbery.