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December 6, 2011

Johnson losing freedom but still has friends

Former Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson will lose his freedom next Feb. 3 when the date for him to report to federal prison to serve a 7-year, 3-month sentence comes up. but he hasn't lost his friends despite the wide-ranging corruption charges to which he pleaded guilty.

When Johnson was sentenced Tuesday morning at the U.S. District Courthouse in Greenbelt, the courtroom didn't have a seat to spare. Most of those who attended appeared to be supporters such as Pastor Douglas E. Edwards of the Mission of Love Outreach Ministries in Capitol Heights.

Edwards was hoping against hope that the judge would let Johnson atone for his crimes, including bribery and extortion, by performing community service.

"Any time I've called him he's been there. So I'd like to see him serving the poor people," Edwards said.

The pastor wasn't excusing Johnson, saying he was "deeply hurt" to learn about his conduct. But he said that Johnson is "so remorseful" and that his family has suffered enough.

"It would serve no purpose to further humiliate him," Edwards said.

Raymond Watts of Forestville sat in the front row hoping the judge would go "a little light" on Johnson, 62. He said the former county executive still has a lot of supporters in the county.

"He was one of the people that every Sunday he would visit a different church," Watts said. He called Johnson "a very religious person who just made a mistake."

The Rev. Anthony Evans, associate pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, said Johnson is "beloved in the black community."

Evans said he came to court to stand by his friend. That's what the church does, he said.

"We stand with you when you bless your babies and we stand with when you do wrong," Evans said.

After Judge Peter Messitte passed sentence and ended the hearing, Johnson received hugs and best wishes from supporters before his defense lawyers whisked him away in a black Chevrolet Suburban SUV.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:39 PM | | Comments (0)
        

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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