Prosecutors ask Leslie Johnson to pay fine before serving sentence

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Federal prosecutors are seeking full payment of a court-imposed fine from former Prince George’s County lawmaker Leslie Johnson before she begins her prison term, just as they did in husband Jack Johnson’s related case.

Court records show prosecutors have asked for the $15,000 fine to be paid in full before Leslie Johnson reports to prison March 9, contending that she has $170,000 in the bank.

But her attorneys said that with more than $55,000 incurred in legal fees and an estimated $54,622 needed to pay her bills while incarcerated for one year, she will need the money in her bank account to sustain her family.

The 60-year-old Johnson, a Democrat, had just been elected to the County Council when she and husband Jack Johnson, the county executive, were arrested and charged in 2010 as part of a widespread federal corruption probe. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit witness and evidence tampering, charges stemming from a taped phone conversation in which her husband directed her to flush a $100,000 check down the toilet and hide nearly $80,000 in her underwear.

U.S. District Court Judge Peter J. Messitte ruled in January that Johnson could defer paying $5,000 of the fine until released from prison, according to court records. The remaining $10,000 would be paid in monthly $500 increments, the judge ruled.

In court records filed this month asking that the fine be paid up front, the U.S. attorney’s office stated the Johnson’s monthly household income is $9,395. The income includes a $3,000 pension and $1,600 in Social Security income benefits for Jack Johnson, a $3,295 pension for Leslie Johnson, and $1,500 in rental income.

“The defendant has over $170,000 in liquid assets available for her use,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen F. Loucks in court records. “Even if one took into account and added in the purported $55,000 legal fees … it is apparent that the defendant has the wherewithal to pay the $15,000 fine now.”

Leslie Johnson’s expected monthly expenses, which include mortgage payments, health and car insurance, and financial support for her elderly mother and disabled sister, were documented at $4,551, said her attorney, Shawn Wright.

“As such, Ms. Johnson is currently engaged in critical financial planning to ensure that her familial and financial responsibilities are met while she serves her term of incarceration and that the cash she currently has in bank accounts will sustain her and her family during this extraordinarily challenging time in their lives,” Ms. Wright wrote in court documents.

Jack Johnson, a Democrat, pleaded guilty to extortion and evidence tampering charges related to his acceptance of up to $1 million in bribes while in office. His term as county executive ended shortly after his arrest.

Prosecutors previously sought to have Jack Johnson pay his $100,000 fine up front before his prison sentence began Feb. 18. That motion, however, was denied, as was his motion to defer his entire fine payment until after his 87-month sentence.

The original order to have Jack Johnson pay $30,000 of the fine before going to prison was upheld. It was unclear Monday whether he had paid the fine before reporting to prison at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.

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