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Former Brunswick DA Indicted

Attorney Page Pate is recognized as a criminal defense and constitutional attorney, as well as a legal analyst. Various media outlets will often contact Page for his comments on important and high-profile cases appearing in the news.

In this case, WJXT (News 4 Jax) contacted Page to discuss the decision of a Glynn County, Georgia grand jury to indict the former District Attorney, Jackie Johnson, on violation of oath and obstruction of a law enforcement officer charges in connection with the case involving the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia in 2020.

Page is asked whether he is surprised about the indictment of Ms. Johnson, a former District Attorney. He responds that he is “actually very surprised” and says that he understands “there was a lot of pressure to do something in this case because most people here believe that Jackie Johnson made the wrong decision in both telling these officers not to arrest the McMichaels that day, and also trying to steer the case to a district attorney that she thought would never prosecute them. But as far as criminal charges, that does come as a surprise. It’s kind of a stretch to indict a district attorney for making a decision about a case. She’s charged with a felony and a misdemeanor, but I actually think the misdemeanor is the strongest charge here.” Page also doesn’t think that Ms. Johnson will get any jail time if convicted on the charges and says “the misdemeanor charge does carry up to 12 months in jail, but for someone with her background, no criminal history, the nature of these charges, I think the goal here for the prosecution is to hold her responsible, but I don’t think that necessarily means any jail time.”

Regarding the potential evidence in the case against Ms. Johnson, Page explains that he thinks that there will be evidence that Ms. Johnson “steered the case to this other district attorney, and that’s what our attorney general says is a violation of her own oath of office,” and further explains how that is “really vague” and that “there’s no law that says she cannot contact another district attorney about the case. What they’re trying to say is, she wasn’t treating the Arbery family fairly, and as a result of that, she violated her oath. The other charge deals with the officers who were on the scene that day. They do not respond to her. They do not report to her. But, nonetheless, she contacted those officers and said, “Do not arrest the McMichaels,”. That is the basis for the obstruction charge which I think is a better case for the attorney general.”

Lastly, Page is asked for his opinion on whether or not Ms. Johnson’s indictment will have an effect on the Ahmaud Arbery murder case. Page says he doesn’t think it should have “any effect at all,” because “As most people know, Jackie Johnson lost the election. There’s a new district attorney, and the district attorney prosecuting the McMichaels is not even from Glynn County. So, whatever happens to Jackie Johnson, whether she’s convicted, faces jail time, none of that should have any impact on the pending case against the McMichaels.”

TRANSCRIPT:

Jenn: Six minutes after 8:00 this morning, attorneys Ben Crump and Lee Merritt will join Ahmaud Arbery’s parents to discuss the grand jury’s decision released yesterday to indict former Georgia prosecutor, Jackie Johnson. Prosecutors say that she violated her oath of office when she failed to inform her boss that she had previously discussed the 25-year-old’s shooting death with the district attorney who ended up taking it over after she recused herself since she works in Brunswick…was working there at the time.

She’s also accused of obstruction of a law enforcement officer. One of the men accused in the shooting used to work for her. Greg McMichael is who I’m talking about. His son also, Travis, are seen on video confronting Arbery as he ran through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Glynn County last year. A third man, William “Roddie” Bryan, seen on the right is also facing charges since investigators say he participated in the chase. Joining me now to discuss the indictment is defense attorney Page Pate who lives in Brunswick. Good morning. Thanks for being with us.

Page: Good morning, Jenn.

Jenn: So, Pate, this is incredibly unusual to indict a district attorney. I mean, are you surprised?

Page: I’m actually very surprised. I understand there was a lot of pressure to do something in this case because most people here believe that Jackie Johnson made the wrong decision in both telling these officers not to arrest the McMichaels that day, and also trying to steer the case to a district attorney that she thought would never prosecute them.

But as far as criminal charges, that does come as a surprise. It’s kind of a stretch to indict a district attorney for making a decision about a case. She’s charged with a felony and a misdemeanor, but I actually think the misdemeanor is the strongest charge here.

Jenn: And then let’s talk about the other charge then. So, is it easy to find evidence in this, since a lot of it can be he said-she said?

Page: Right. I think there’ll be evidence that she clearly steered the case to this other district attorney, and that’s what our attorney general says is a violation of her own oath of office. But that’s really vague. There’s no law that says she cannot contact another district attorney about the case. What they’re trying to say is, she wasn’t treating the Arbery family fairly, and as a result of that, she violated her oath.

The other charge deals with the officers who were on the scene that day. They do not respond to her. They do not report to her. But, nonetheless, she contacted those officers and said, “Do not arrest the McMichaels.” That is the basis for the obstruction charge which I think is a better case for the attorney general.

Jenn: Any reason that this indictment and the outcome of it could have any impact on the Arbery case itself, the murder case?

Page: That’s a great question. It should not have any effect at all. As most people know, Jackie Johnson lost the election. There’s a new district attorney, and the district attorney prosecuting the McMichaels is not even from Glynn County. So, whatever happens to Jackie Johnson, whether she’s convicted, faces jail time, none of that should have any impact on the pending case against the McMichaels.

Jenn: Given your opinion about the strength of the case, you know, more strength when it comes to the misdemeanor charge, do you think that she could end up doing any prison time?

Page: I don’t think so, Jenn. I mean, the misdemeanor charge does carry up to 12 months in jail, but for someone with her background, no criminal history, the nature of these charges, I think the goal here for the prosecution is to hold her responsible, but I don’t think that necessarily means any jail time.

Jenn: We certainly will see. Page Pate, always appreciate your analysis. Thanks for your time this morning.

Page: Thank you.

Jenn: Okay.