One of the white men convicted for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery reportedly contacted his former district attorney boss several times after his son fatally shot the Black man, a new court document shows.
The filing was prosecutors’ response to motions to dismiss criminal charges against Jackie Johnson for allegedly using her position to delay charges in the case. Johnson lost her reelection for Brunswick district attorney in November 2020.
McMichael worked as an investigator in Johnson’s office up until 2019. Johnson is facing felony charges for violating her oath and obstructing police’s investigation into the February 2020 murder.
“The evidence shows that Johnson showed favor and affection for McMichael throughout the pendency of the case — including when she was making decisions as the DA over his case,” the prosecutors’ legal filing said.
The document filed on Wednesday reportedly lists 16 calls between Johnson and McMichael hours after the Feb. 23, 2020, shooting until May 5, 2020, the day cellphone video of the incident was made public. McMichael and his son were charged two days later.
According to reports, the video was leaked to a local radio station by an attorney Johnson had referred to McMichael. Seven of the calls lasted between about three minutes to 21 minutes, and more than half the calls likely went unanswered and to voicemail, according to reports.
“He’s gonna run interference for me right now, and that’s damn good advice, and I appreciate that very much,” McMichael said in a voice message to Johnson on May 5, 2020.
McMichael had reportedly called Johnson on the day of the murder hours before she asked another district attorney to consult with police officers handling the case. Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill immediately decided not to press charges.
“Jackie, this is Greg,” McMichael reportedly said in the voice message. “Could you call me as soon as you possibly can? My [inaudible] and I been involved in a shooting and I need some advice right away. Could you please call me as soon as you possibly can? Thanks. Bye.”
According to reports, three days after Arbery’s murder, Johnson recused herself from the case and asked the attorney general to assign an outside recruiter. She told an office paralegal Barnhill had already accepted the case.
“Johnson failed to disclose, however, that Barnhill had already reviewed the case and declared the case to be self-defense,” the legal filing said. “Thus, Johnson effectively chose the outcome of the case despite having a conflict.”
Barnhill also recused himself from the case because of conflict of interest, which prompted another call from McMichael on April 3, 2020, according to reports.
Prosecutors are refuting defense arguments that there is not enough evidence to support the criminal case against Johnson.
A Georgia jury convicted George and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan for murder and assault charges in November. A federal jury subsequently convicted the men of hates crimes charges in February.
Arbery was running down a road in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia, when the armed father and son chased him. The men cornered the 25-year-old before Travis McMichael shot Arbery during a tussle over McMichaels’ shotgun. Bryan followed in his pickup truck and recorded the incident.
The men claimed the shooting was self-defense. However, state prosecutors concluded that Arbery was “hunted down” and killed.