Former Georgia prosecutor indicted over handling of Ahmaud Arbery’s case

Former District Attorney Jackie Johnson has been indicted on misconduct charges for her role in the murder investigation of Ahmaud Arbery — a 25-year-old Black man who was fatally shot while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood last year. The indictment comes after Arbery’s mother filed a civil lawsuit earlier this year, accusing Johnson of attempting to “cover up” her son’s murder. 

The former Brunswick prosecutor faces charges of violation of oath of public officer and obstruction of a police officer. According to the Thursday indictment, Johnson failed “to treat Ahmaud Arbery and his family fairly and with dignity” by using her past work with one of the murder suspects, Gregory McMichael, as motivation to shield the men from charges. 

On February 23, 2020, Arbery was jogging in a Georgia neighborhood when he was allegedly pursued and cornered by Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, who are both White. The two men were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault in May 2020. The McMichaels told police they believed Arbery was a burglary suspect, claiming they acted in self-defense. 

William Bryan, the man who recorded the killing, has been charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. Bryan has maintained his innocence. In May, all three men pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges.

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L-R: Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan were charged with murder in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. Glynn County Detention Center via AP/ WJAX

The complaint, which seeks millions in damages, said McMichael previously worked as a police officer and had also worked as an investigator in Johnson’s office for the entirety of her tenure until his retirement in 2019.

In an attempt to allegedly rescue herself due to the conflict of interest, Johnson assigned Arbery’s investigation to another district attorney — George E. Barnhill — who she allegedly knew would be sympathetic to the case due to his own alleged personal connection to Gregory McMichael, the complaint said. 

Thursday’s indictment accused Johnson of showing “favor and affection to Greg McMichael during the investigation,” directing police officers at the scene to not place Travis McMichael under arrest, and failing to disclose that she had sought Barnill’s assistance on the case before assigning him to it. 

If convicted, Johnson could face up to six years behind bars – a felony charge for violating the oath carries a maximum sentence of five years and the misdemeanor charge for obstructing and hindering an officer carries up to 12 months. 

Johnson did not immediately respond to CBS News for comment on Thursday. 

“Our office is committed to ensuring those who are entrusted to serve are carrying out their duties ethically and honestly,” Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement Thursday. “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.”