Former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson turned herself in Wednesday morning at the Glynn County Detention Center.
She was booked at 8 a.m. on charges alleging she interfered with the investigation into Ahmaud Arbery’s 2020 killing and that she attempted to manipulate the state attorney general’s selection of a prosecutor in the case.
Johnson, 49, was booked on felony violation of oath of office and misdemeanor willful obstruction of law enforcement officers, jail records indicate.
She was released at 8:07 a.m. on her own recognizance on a $10,000 bond for the felony charge. No bond amount was listed for the misdemeanor charge.
Arbery, 25, was shot to death Feb. 23, 2020, on a public street in Satilla Shores by shotgun-toting Travis McMichael, the 35-year-old son of former Brunswick DA investigator Gregory McMichael, 64. The father and son armed themselves, got in a pickup truck and pursued Arbery after seeing him run past their Satilla Drive residence that Sunday afternoon.
Neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, joined the pursuit in his own pickup truck after seeing Arbery run past his home on Burford Road with the McMichaels chasing him.
The pursuit lasted several minutes and Bryan used his cell phone to record the bloody end when Travis McMichael shot the unarmed Arbery three times at close range with buckshot, killing him.
Arbery was Black. The McMichaels and Bryan are White.
The case lingered without an arrest until the video went viral online in early May of 2020, sparking national outrage and cries of racial injustice. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation intervened afterward, arresting the McMichaels on felony murder charges two days later and arresting Bryan on the same charges later that month.
Johnson immediately recused herself, but contacted Waycross DA George E. Barnhill and persuaded him to lend legal guidance to the Glynn County Police Department. He spoke with county police at the police department the next day.
State Attorney General Chris Carr assigned the case to Barnhill on Feb. 27. It was the same day Johnson notified Carr that she had recused herself, citing her connection with McMichael, who retired in 2019 after a 20-year-career with the Brunswick DA.
Carr later said he had no idea that Johnson and Barnhill had already discussed the case. Carr further stated he was unaware Barnhill had already advised the county police department.
A grand jury indictment issued at the Glynn County Courthouse last week alleges Johnson told county police investigators not to arrest Travis McMichael the day of the shooting. It further alleges she manipulated Carr’s choice of Barnhill to take over the investigation but failed to inform Carr that the two had discussed the case and that Barnhill had already advised the police department on the matter.
It was later learned that Barnhill gave an initial assessment to the county police that the case appeared to be self defense in the process of a citizen’s arrest.
Johnson served as Brunswick DA for 10 years before losing a heated campaign to current DA Keith Higgins in November.
Johnson arrived at the county jail at 7:32 a.m., jail officials said.
Jim Stein, a Kingsland attorney who has represented Johnson in the past, told The News late last week he is not representing her on the current charges. He said she is being represented by another Kingsland attorney, John Ossick.
Ossick did not return calls Wednesday from The News.
In an email response Tuesday, Stein said he believes Johnson is innocent of the charges.
“It would be improper to make any statement other than that Jackie has not violated her oath of office or any laws,” he said.
The murder trial of the McMichaels and Bryan begins Oct. 18 in Glynn County with jury selection.
The three men also are charged with federal hate crimes laws, including interference with Arbery’s rights and attempted kidnapping. That trial is set to begin Feb. 7, 2022 with jury selection in U.S. District Court in Brunswick.