GREENBELT, Md. (WJZ) — Tuesday, a judge handed a once-powerful Maryland politician one of the longest sentences ever for corruption while in office.
Mike Hellgren was with former Prince George’s County executive and state’s attorney Jack Johnson when he learned he was headed to federal prison.
Johnson, once the leader of Maryland’s second-largest county, sold his office by accepting bribes from developers. Prosecutors say those bribes were worth more than a million dollars. Then Johnson seemingly laughed off the investigation.
“If one of the prosecutors is able to bring someone like me down, they brag their whole career, I prosecuted Jack Johnson,” Johnson said in a YouTube video.
But he wasn’t laughing in federal court when a judge ordered him to pay $100,000, seized his classic 1953 Mercedes and sentenced him to seven years and three months in federal prison.
His lawyers begged the court for mercy, saying Johnson now suffers from Parkinson’s disease and was closed to being confined to a wheelchair but prosecutors showed a picture of him playing golf after that diagnosis.
The judge said, “You were not elected to line your pockets. You brought this on yourself.”
“If Jack Johnson’s story were a screenplay, critics would say that it’s too bizarre to be true,” Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney, said.
And Johnson got his wife, Leslie, involved during the raid on his home, asking her to hide thousands of dollars in bribe money.
Johnson told the court, “In my wildest dreams, I could not imagine being in a place like this. I worked so hard for this county. I want to apologize to the people of Prince George’s County and to my wife. I am accepting my responsibility and am haunted by that. Judge, I’ve lost everything.”
“Jack Johnson could have been a role model for integrity but instead he chose to be a poster child for corruption,” Rosenstein said.
Leslie Johnson will be sentenced on Friday.
Johnson will report to prison Feb. 3.