Arraignment set for former Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson

Dec. 1—Former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson is scheduled for arraignment in Glynn County Superior Court on Dec. 29 on charges that she interfered in a murder investigation involving a former investigator for her office.

Superior Court Judge John R. Turner, Ogeechee Judicial Circuit, scheduled the arraignment for the last week of the month. Glynn County judges recused themselves from the case involving Johnson, who served as the Brunswick circuit prosecutor for 10 years before losing the 2020 election to Keith Higgins.

The arraignment comes more than a year after a Glynn County grand jury indicted Johnson on Sept. 2, 2021, on charges of willful obstruction of law enforcement officers and violating her oath of office.

The grand jury was convened in June 2021 by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, whose office alleges Johnson tried to manipulate the investigation and prosecution of the February 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

Arbery was shot dead in the streets of Satilla Shores on Feb. 23, 2020, during a pursuit of him in pickup trucks by Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and a fellow neighborhood resident, William "Roddie" Bryan. Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.

Greg McMichael, a former police officer, worked as an investigator for Johnson.

All three men involved in the chase were sentenced to life sentences by the state in 2021. Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael received additional life sentences for a hate crime in federal court. Bryan received a 25-year federal sentence.

The indictment alleges Johnson instructed county police investigators at the scene via cellphone not to arrest either of the McMichaels. The indictment further accuses Johnson of colluding to divert the case to Waycross DA George Barnhill after she recused herself.

Carr's office maintains Johnson directed the case to Barnhill knowing he had already expressed an opinion that the deadly shooting was a case of self-defense in the course of a citizen's arrest.

Johnson turned herself in at the Glynn County Detention Center on Sept. 8, 2021, and was released minutes later. She maintains her innocence.

In response to a request from Johnson's attorney to drop all charges, the AG's office submitted evidence in May of 16 phone calls between Johnson and Greg McMichael after the murder. The evidence claimed the first call between the two occurred within an hour of the shooting and that last one came in May 2020 when McMichael was in jail. In that last call, the AG says Greg McMichael left a message with Johnson "thanking her for a referral because 'he's gonna run interference for me right now and that's damn good advice,'" according to the filing.

Johnson will make her formal plea during the 10 a.m. arraignment, at which time the judge will consider any pending motions and any other matters that may need to be addressed by the court.