JULY 01, 2011
A prominent Maryland councilwoman who made international headlines for flushing a bribe down the toilet and stuffing another in her underwear has pleaded guilty to a felony but won’t leave her $96,417-a-year public job.The unbelievably pompous move has led the area’s largest newspaper to blast the lawmaker, Prince George’s County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, as a “case study in arrogance.” Every day she serves in public office and every act she commits in her official capacity is a disgrace to the county and her constituents, the editorial says.In November Johnson and her equally corrupt husband (Jack Johnson) got arrested for operating a large-scale bribery scheme. Jack, a former county executive, recently got convicted of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes from developers as the county’s top elected official. Leslie tried to cover up the bribes by flushing a $100,000 check down the toilet and stuffing nearly $80,000 in her bra when federal agents came snooping.The Johnsons were well known in the state as an African-American power couple. As Maryland’s largest county with a population of about 835,000 and 27 municipalities, Prince George’s County has the distinction of being the nation’s wealthiest with a black majority of residents. The Johnsons have even appeared on the cover of a major newspaper’s Sunday magazine as the stars of an article touting the county as a hub for educated black professionals.For years the feds suspected that Jack and other county officials had been taking bribes from real estate developers in exchange for personal and business favors. As FBI agents tried to search the Johnson mansion, Jack ordered his wife to flush a bribe from a developer down the toilet and hide the rest in her underwear.The feds recorded the incriminating telephone conversation and subsequently found $79,000 in cash stuffed into Leslie Johnson’s bra, according to federal prosecutors. The bribes were paid to Jack Johnson by a developer who needed his help securing federal grants for affordable housing projects, according to the feds.This week Leslie, who is an attorney and once served as a judge in the District of Columbia, pleaded guilty to destroying evidence, but she refuses to resign from the council despite calls from colleagues and the media to quit. “I look forward to continuing to serve and help the lives of those in need,” Johnson said told the media as she left court.Leslie could go to jail for more than a year, which of course, means that she will then be forced to relinquish her public office. Her sentencing is scheduled for October. Under Maryland law elected officials convicted of felonies must resign but a conviction evidently isn’t final until sentencing. In the meantime, District 6 will be represented by a handsomely paid felon.
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