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Ex-Brunswick prosecutor subject of grand jury investigation, report says

Jackie Johnson, Georgia District Attorney
Jackie Johnson, Georgia District Attorney (News4Jax)

Former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson was ousted from office during last November’s election after authorities raised questions about her agency’s treatment of the Ahmaud Arbery murder case.

Now, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Johnson is the subject of a grand jury investigation.

Citing multiple anonymous sources, the newspaper reports that Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office is interviewing witnesses as part of a grand jury probe convened to review Johnson’s conduct.

At Carr’s request, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation in May 2020 into the possibility of prosecutorial misconduct by Johnson over her office’s involvement in the Arbery case.

Arbery, 25, was killed in a Feb. 23, 2020, confrontation with Gregory McMichael, 65, an ex-police officer and former district attorney’s office investigator, and his 35-year-old son, Travis, near Brunswick.

Ahmaud Arbery (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

No arrests were initially made in Arbery’s death. It wasn’t until over two months later, after video of the killing surfaced online, that the GBI took over the case and the McMichaels were both arrested.

Johnson had recused herself, citing Gregory McMichael’s previous work as an investigator for her office. At her request, Carr tapped Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill to oversee the case.

READ: Carr’s letter to DOJ requesting federal inquiry

But in his request to the GBI to review Johnson and Barnhill’s actions, Carr said he wasn’t aware Barnhill had already determined that “he did not see grounds for the arrest of any of the individuals involved.”

Among other things, Carr said he didn’t know at the time of the appointment that Barnhill’s son, a Brunswick prosecutor, had worked with Gregory McMichael on a previous case involving Arbery.

Carr said Barnhill “held onto the case for several more weeks after making this discovery” and did not notify the Attorney General’s Office of the apparent conflict of interest until April 7, 2020.

As the AJC reports, Barnhill could be seen leaving the grand jury room at the Glynn County courthouse last month.

Johnson has also been accused of telling Glynn County police not to arrest the McMichaels initially because they did not pose a “flight risk,” a claim Johnson has publicly denied.

The Arbery case is now being overseen by Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes, who was appointed as special prosecutor.

The McMichaels and a third man, William Bryan, are charged with murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment in Arbery’s killing when the case goes to trial in October. They also now face federal hate crime charges.

FILE - This combo of booking photos provided by the Glynn County, Ga., Detention Center, shows from left, Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. (Glynn County Detention Center via AP)