Former Glynn County Prosecutor Greg McMichael Exchanged Phone Calls After Ahmaud Arbery Murder, Motion Says

The AG’s motion was in response to filings by Johnson’s attorneys to dismiss the two charges against him. In a motion filed in March, the attorneys wrote that there is “not a shred of evidence” to show that Johnson told the two Glynn County police officers not to arrest Travis McMichael.

In its response filed Wednesday, the AG’s office did not address, in any specificity, the defense’s motion to dismiss that charge. But it contains new information to support his accusations in the count of violating the oath of office.

Prior to the AG’s office filing, it had been made public that Greg McMichael called Johnson shortly after Arbery was hunted down and killed. McMichael left a frantic voicemail asking Johnson, “Could you get back to me as soon as you can? My son and I have been involved in a shooting and I need advice immediately.”

The AG’s filing says Johnson returned McMichael’s call the next day and they talked for nine minutes and 15 seconds. On March 8, 2020, McMichael called back and spoke with Johnson for 13 minutes. They would exchange 13 more phone calls in the following weeks, sometimes leaving voicemails or talking for 21 minutes, the AG file showed.

In his last call, on May 5, 2020, McMichael left Johnson a message thanking him and then adding, “He’s going to step in for me right now and that’s really good advice and I really appreciate it.” AG’s presentation said, without specifying who McMichael was referring to.

Earlier that day, Arbery’s murder received widespread condemnation with the release of Bryan’s cellphone video showing Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times during a fight. The McMichaels would be arrested two days later.

The AG’s office filing also outlines how Johnson got Barnhill, a district attorney for the Waycross Speedway, to take on the case because Greg McMichael once worked for her.

The day after the shooting, Barnhill met with Glynn County police to discuss the case. After viewing cellphone video of Bryan, Barnhill concluded the shooting was justified because it was self-defense, according to attorney general’s office files.

It wasn’t until three days later that Johnson properly contacted the AG’s office about his conflict of interest, according to the AG’s filing. And while Johnson told the attorney general’s office that Barnhill had agreed to take the case, he did not disclose that Barnhill had already determined it was a self-defense case, according to the filing.

“Therefore, Johnson effectively chose the outcome of the case despite having a conflict,” the attorney general’s office said.

The attorney general’s office also pointed to a chain of phone calls on April 3, 2020, indicating that Johnson was updating Greg McMichael with developments.

They begin with a 6:11 pm phone call from Barnhill to his son, who worked as a prosecutor in Johnson’s office. In that call, Barnhill told his son that he was recusing himself from the case, the attorney general’s office said.

Minutes later, Barnhill’s son called Johnson and they talked for four minutes, the AG file showed. Half an hour later, Johnson called Greg McMichael. He didn’t answer, but he called her at 7:15 pm and they talked for three minutes. Just two minutes after hanging up, Greg McMichael left a message for his son, who promptly called back. The father and son then talked for two minutes and 30 seconds, the AG file showed.

THE STORY SO FAR

Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan were convicted of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by a state court jury last November and sentenced to life in prison. They were tried again in federal court, and a jury convicted them in February of committing hate crimes. Sentencing in that case is scheduled for August.

Former Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson was indicted by a county grand jury in September on two felony counts: obstructing the investigation and violating her oath. Her attorneys have sought to have the charges dismissed.

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