By Associated Press - Sunday, November 14, 2010

Prince George’s County Executive-elect Rushern Baker isn’t commenting on the arrest of his predecessor, but Mr. Baker’s transition team said he is staying focused on residents’ concerns and his agenda.

County Executive Jack Johnson, whose second term as the Maryland county’s top elected official expires next month, was arrested Friday, along with his wife, Leslie, in an investigation related to accusations that some developers were bribing public officials in exchange for official acts favorable to certain developers and their companies..

Agents tapping Mr. Johnson’s cell phone heard him tell Mrs. Johnson to flush a $100,000 check from a developer down the toilet and hide nearly $80,000 cash in her underwear as FBI agents were at their door of their Mitchellville, Md., home, according to an affidavit.

The two were charged with witness and evidence tampering, and with destruction, alteration and falsification of records in a federal investigation.

Mr. Johnson said Friday night he was innocent of the charges.

After Mr. Johnson told his wife, “Don’t answer it,” he instructed her over the phone to go upstairs to their bedroom and destroy the check, the affidavit said.

“Tear it up! That is the only thing you have to do,” Mr. Johnson told his wife, according to the affidavit.

Mrs. Johnson, who was recently elected to the County Council, then could be heard asking her husband, “Do you want me to put it down the toilet?”

The county executive responded, “Yes, flush that,” according to the affidavit, which noted that monitoring agents heard a flushing sound in the background.

Mr. Johnson then told his wife to put cash in her underwear, according to the affidavit. After FBI agents entered the home, they searched Mrs. Johnson and recovered $79,600 from her underwear.

The Johnsons were arrested at home and released later on personal recognizance. Mr. Johnson was placed on home detention with electronic monitoring. They both face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

On Saturday, Baker spokesman Scott Peterson said his boss is focused on his agenda to improve education, the economy and “deliver a more effective, efficient and ethical government.”

In May, Mr. Baker called for an ethics reform package, including the first county inspector general. He called for a ban on county credit cards for elected officials and for tighter campaign finance regulations.

Mr. Baker ran against Mr. Johnson twice in the past.

Mr. Johnson said after he was released: “To all the citizens of Prince George’s County, you know me. I’ve served you long and I’ve served you well and most of you know me well. I cannot go into these allegations because my lawyers will kill me if I do. I’m innocent of these charges. I just can’t wait for the facts to come out. When they come out, I am absolutely convinced that we will be vindicated.”

Roland Patterson, Mrs. Johnson’s attorney, said she is asking for prayers and support “through the ordeal of fighting to disprove the allegations that are pending against her now.”

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