Sen. Johnson corruption trial delayed until 2018

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit – A federal judge Wednesday delayed state Sen. Bert Johnson’s corruption trial until next year to give the embattled politician more time to prepare and review evidence.

Johnson’s trial was moved from Oct. 23 to March 12, according to an order by U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman. It is the third time the trial was delayed in recent months.

The move is the latest legal development in a high-profile case that is among a new wave of public corruption scandals to hit Metro Detroit in the years since former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and 40 others were convicted of federal corruption crimes.

The judge’s order comes two weeks after Johnson’s court-appointed defense lawyer John Shea asked for more time to review evidence collected during a nearly two-year investigation.

The Highland Park Democrat is accused of putting a ghost employee on his Senate payroll so he could repay money loans. The ghost employee is Glynis Thornton, who was ensnared in an earlier corruption scandal involving the state-run Education Achievement Authority in Detroit.

She is cooperating with authorities and secretly recorded a conversation with Johnson at his home in November 2015.

Johnson, 43, is facing conspiracy and theft charges that carry penalties of up to 10 years in federal prison. The indictment alleges Johnson stole more than $23,000 from taxpayers between March 2014 and January 2015.

Separately, Shea wants the judge to dismiss the corruption indictment.

The indictment alleges Johnson stole money from a federally funded program. Shea has argued the indictment should be dismissed because Johnson cannot be considered an agent of the state of Michigan and because the legislature receives no federal funds.

Prosecutors are fighting the request.

Leitman previously delayed the trial to give Johnson’s legal team more time to prepare and investigate Thornton’s background.

The trial originally was scheduled to start June 20 but was delayed until August and again to Oct. 23 after Johnson dumped his lawyer and received court-appointed counsel.

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