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A Former Prosecutor Is Accused Of Obstructing The Investigation Into The Killing Of Ahmaud Arbery

Former prosecutor Jackie Johnson is accused of keeping police from making arrests after the deadly shooting.

Posted on September 2, 2021, at 6:42 p.m. ET

Phil Skinner / Associated Press

Jackie Johnson, then the Brunswick Judicial Circuit district attorney, in court in 2013

A former Georgia prosecutor who was at one point overseeing the investigation into the deadly shooting of Ahmaud Arbery is now facing charges that she violated her oath of office and used her position to stop police from arresting the men accused of murdering him.

Jackie Johnson, the former district attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, faces one felony count of violating her oath of office and a misdemeanor charge of obstructing law enforcement after the killing of Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020.

Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and William Bryan Jr. face a series of charges in the death of the 25-year-old Black man, including felony murder. The deadly confrontation took place after the McMichaels began to chase Arbery, who was jogging.

The men would later tell police there had been break-ins in the neighborhood and that they got in their truck to pursue Arbery because he was seen "hauling ass."

Cellphone video filmed by Bryan shows the men following Arbery on a two-lane road in their pickup. Arbery appears to try to pass on the right side when the men confront him with a shotgun.

Attorneys representing Arbery's family point out the video shows him trying to avoid the men before the fatal shot is heard.

Hyosub Shin / AP

A protester with an image of Ahmaud Arbery on a face mask

No charges were immediately filed in the deadly shooting, and the three white men were not arrested for more than two months. It wasn't until the video of the violent encounter was made public and state authorities took over the investigation that the men were arrested and charged.

According to the indictment revealed Thursday, Johnson failed to perform her duties as prosecutor by "showing favor and affection to Greg McMichael during the investigation into the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery."

Johnson ultimately recused herself from the case because Greg was a former employee in her office. He also reportedly called Johnson after the shooting and left her a message.

She then recommended that Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill be appointed as the prosecutor in the case.

However, the indictment states that Johnson had reached out to Barnhill, before her recommendation, to assist her office in the case. Arbery's family would later also point out that Barnhill has a son who had worked in Johnson's office as an assistant prosecutor.

According to the indictment, Johnson also prevented Glynn County police officers Stephanie Oliver and Stephan Lowry from placing Travis under arrest.

"Our office is committed to ensuring those who are entrusted to serve are carrying out their duties ethically and honestly," Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, whose office brought charges against Johnson, said in a statement.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.