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An ex-prosecutor has been charged with wrongdoing in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery

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A former Georgia prosecutor was charged with misconduct on Thursday, charging that she exploited her position to protect the men who hunted down and killed Ahmaud Arbery from being charged with crimes right after the shootings.

An ex-prosecutor has been charged with wrongdoing in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery

Former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson was indicted by a grand jury in coastal Glynn County on accusations of breaching her oath of office and impeding a law enforcement officer. After a smartphone video of Arbery’s death and a delay in charging generated a national outrage, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr ordered an investigation into county prosecutors’ handling of the slaying last year. In a statement, Carr, a Republican, said, “While an indictment was returned today, our file is not closed, and we will continue to investigate in order to pursue justice.”

Arbery was slain on February 23, 2020, when Greg and Travis McMichael, a white father and son, armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old Black man in a pickup vehicle after spotting him running in their neighborhood outside of Brunswick. William “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbor, joined the chase and recorded Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun on his iPhone. Arbery was shot after attacking Travis McMichael with his fists, according to the McMichales, who thought he was a burglar. Following the shooting, police did not charge any of them, and the McMichaels and Bryan were free for more than two months until the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took up the case.

In May 2020, all three were charged with murder and will stand trial this fall.

Greg McMichael, a retired investigator from Johnson’s office, was a member of the team. He contacted Johnson’s cellphone and left her a voice mail shortly after the shooting, according to evidence presented in the murder case’s preliminary hearings. According to a recording of the call released in the public case file, he said, “Jackie, this is Greg.” “Could you please call me as soon as possible? My son and I were involved in a shooting, and I require immediate assistance.” Johnson did not return Greg McMichael’s phone calls that day, according to a log of Greg McMichael’s calls. According to the indictment, Johnson showed “favor and affection” toward Greg McMichael during the investigation and interfered with police officers by “directing that Travis McMichael not be placed under arrest.” Johnson has maintained her innocence, claiming she immediately recused herself from the case because Greg McMichael was a former employee. After losing reelection in November, Johnson told The Associated Press, “I’m convinced that when the truth ultimately comes out on that, people will understand our office did what it had to under the circumstances.”

In a statement released Thursday, Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother, said prosecutors “must be held accountable when they interfere with investigations in order to protect friends and law enforcement.” Wanda Cooper Jones, Arbery’s mother, he added, “is appreciative for everyone who continues to campaign for Ahmaud’s justice and responsibility at every level.” Following the incident, Johnson enlisted the help of Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, an independent prosecutor, to deal with police inquiries on how to handle the situation. On Feb. 27, four days after the shooting, Carr, the attorney general, appointed Barnhill to take over. Carr claimed he was never notified that Barnhill had already told police “that he did not perceive grounds for the arrest of any of the individuals involved in Mr. Arbery’s death” in his letter ordering an investigation last May. After Arbery’s family realized that his son worked for Johnson as an associate prosecutor, Barnhill also recused himself. Before stepping aside, Barnhill submitted a letter to a Glynn County police captain, claiming that the McMichaels “were chasing, in ‘hot pursuit,’ a burglary suspect, with solid first hand probable cause, in their area, and asking/ ordering him to halt.” “It appears that their intention was to detain and detain this criminal suspect until police enforcement arrived. This is absolutely legitimate under Georgia law,” Barnhill wrote in the letter, referring to Georgia’s citizen arrest laws.

As a result of Arbery’s death, that law was immediately repealed, with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats. Johnson blamed her election failure last year after a decade as the top prosecutor for the five-county circuit in southeast Georgia on the scandal surrounding Arbery’s death. Keith Higgins, an independent candidate who had to collect thousands of signatures to get on the ballot, defeated her. Johnson did not respond to a phone message left for him on Thursday afternoon.

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