Chalk another one up for our network of sources …
A day after we predicted it would happen, suspended South Carolina fifth circuit solicitor Dan Johnson was indicted by a statewide grand jury on misconduct in office and embezzlement charges. The state indictments came less than forty-eight hours after the scandal-scarred prosecutor was indicted on federal fraud charges.
As with the federal charges, Johnson’s aide-de-camp Nicole Holland was also charged by the state grand jury.
Johnson, 47, was automatically suspended from office the moment he was indicted by the feds. In the aftermath of his suspension, S.C. governor Henry McMaster appointed deputy attorney general Heather Weiss to serve as interim solicitor for the fifth circuit – which covers Richland and Kershaw counties in the Midlands region of the state.
According to the state charges – which will be pursued by S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – Johnson allegedly used drug forfeiture money and other office funds to pay for personal expenses. So did Holland, allegedly.
Specifically, Johnson is accused of using government-issued credit cards “to pay for lodging, travel and other personal expenses unrelated to his duties as solicitor.” He also allegedly used drug forfeiture money on personal expenses “unrelated to the prosecution of drug offenses.” State law requires money seized in drug busts to be used in the prosecution of drug-related crimes.
The state-level misconduct charge could land Johnson in prison for a decade, while the embezzlement charge carries a five-year sentence. Johnson is already facing two decades behind bars on the federal charges. Holland, 49, is facing more than a decade behind bars for her alleged crimes.
Fiscal irregularities in Johnson’s office were first detailed months ago in documents released by influential Democratic attorney (and S.C. Senate candidate) Dick Harpootlian. Back in February, Harpootlian’s group – Public Access to Public Records (PAPR) – released voluminous records exposing questionable payments within the solicitor’s office, news of which was exclusively reported by this outlet.
These documents detailed taxpayer-funded expenditures on swanky parties, cab and Uber rides, club and gym memberships and hotel rooms all over the world.
While Harpootlian’s group focused its investigation on Johnson’s misuse of tax dollars, scrutiny from that inquiry led mainstream media outlets to revisit stories we published years ago regarding Johnson’s alleged harassment of his female subordinates.
The results were explosive …
Among the bombshells? The release of a 2011 report prepared by investigators of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) that analyzed Johnson’s toxic, tortured relationship with his ex-wife – Kana Rahman. Johnson likely would have faced charges in connection with that inquiry, however Rahman ultimately recanted her testimony about his actions toward her and others.
Additional charges against Johnson could still be forthcoming, though.
As we exclusively reported last month, the state grand jury is continuing to investigate whether Johnson leveraged the power of his office – including a wide range of personnel decisions – to alternately reward or punish subordinates based on their willingness to gratify him sexually. Several women have reportedly been victimized by Johnson in these ways, and one of them – Debra Russell – told her story to this news site earlier this year.
Not long after Russell stepped forward, Johnson was defeated by Columbia, S.C. attorney Byron Gipson in the Democratic primary for the fifth circuit solicitor’s post back in June. Gipson faces write-in candidate John Meadors in the general election for this office in November.
So whatever happens to Johnson criminally, he will be out of a job come January.
As we noted in our coverage of the federal charges against him, Johnson is to be considered innocent until proven guilty by our criminal justice system (or until such time as he wishes to formally enter a pleading in connection with the charges filed against him). And obviously in the event Johnson has anything to say in his defense, our microphone is his microphone.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
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