Arbery’s mother: Ex-DA Johnson’s indictment ‘a very huge win’

Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed Feb. 23, 2020, with his mother, Wanda Cooper.

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Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed Feb. 23, 2020, with his mother, Wanda Cooper.

The indictment of former Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson, accused of giving special treatment to the men charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, “was a very huge win,” Arbery’s mother said Friday.

“I’m very thankful we got an indictment,” Wanda Cooper said during a virtual press conference with Arbery’s father and the family’s lawyers.

Both Cooper and her ex-husband, Marcus Arbery, thanked Attorney General Chris Carr for bringing the case against Johnson and said the AG had kept in constant contact with them during the grand jury investigation.

“He’s a man of his word,” Arbery said of Carr. “I’m very grateful the justice system is doing its job.”

On Thursday, a Glynn County grand jury indicted Johnson, who was voted out of office in November, on two criminal counts that together carry a maximum punishment of six years in prison.

In one count, Johnson is charged with obstruction of a police officer, a misdemeanor. On Feb. 23, 2020, the day of the shooting, she allegedly told two Glynn County police officers not to arrest Travis McMichael, the man who shot and killed Arbery, the indictment said.

Johnson is also charged with allegedly violating her oath of office, a felony, for “showing favor and affection” to Greg McMichael, who is Travis McMichael’s father and is also charged in the case. Johnson also failed “to treat Ahmaud Arbery and his family fairly and with dignity,” the indictment states.

Greg McMichael worked at the DA’s Office as an investigator under Johnson for several years until he retired in 2019.

Johnson, who could not be reached for comment, declined any wrongdoing in a radio interview last year.

As of Friday afternoon, Johnson had not yet been booked into the Glynn County Jail, according to Sheriff Neal Jump. He did not know of a deadline or time frame of when she would be reporting to the jail. When that happens, Jump said, “She’ll be processed like any other inmate at the jail.”

Lee Merritt, one of the family’s attorneys, said Johnson’s initial mishandling of the case contributed to it taking 72 days before any arrests were made. “It was a tortuous time for this family,” Merritt said. “It’s imperative those responsible will be held criminally responsible.”

Said Cooper, “Ahmaud was killed and nothing was done.”

As for the new indictment against Johnson, she added, “I’m very appreciative of the way things are going. But at the end of each day Ahmaud is not coming home.”

Both Cooper and Merritt said they believe Johnson should spend time behind bars.

“She should spend time in prison,” Merritt said. “She actively participated in the cover-up of a murder.”

Ben Crump, who also represents the family, noted that the U.S. Justice Department is also looking into how prosecutors handled the investigation of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing.

He called the indictment of Johnson a step in the right direction. “Former DA Johnson may not have pulled the trigger on the day Ahmaud was murdered, but she played a starring role in the cover-up,” he said.

Atlanta criminal defense attorney Jack Martin, who is following the case, said he has never seen an indictment like the one returned against Johnson.

”An indictment of a district attorney is extremely unusual,” he said. “It had to be terribly egregious conduct to have something like this.”

Both of the McMichaels and William “Roddie” Bryan are charged with the murder of Arbery, who was 25 and unarmed, when he was shot and killed by Travis McMichael in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside of Brunswick.

The McMichaels and Bryan, who have pleaded not guilty, are scheduled to stand trial in Brunswick on Oct. 18.

Staff writer Brad Schrade contributed to this article.