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Ex-prosecutor in Ahmaud Arbery case indicted, accused of 'showing favor' to suspects

Jacquelyn Lee Johnson, the former district attorney of Georgia's Brunswick Judicial Circuit who initially handled the investigation into the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, was indicted by a grand jury Thursday on charges of violation of oath of a public officer and obstruction of a police officer, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced.

Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, on Feb. 23, 2020, when he was shot and killed. Gregory McMichael, 65, and his son Travis McMichael, 35, told police they were following Arbery in their pickup truck because they believed he was a burglary suspect, and they claimed they shot him in self-defense. 

Gregory McMichael spent more than 30 years as an investigator in Johnson's office, before retiring in May 2019. Several days after Arbery's shooting, Johnson recused herself from the case, and the indictment states that she showed "favor and affection to Greg McMichael during the investigation" and also obstructed two police officers by "directing that Travis McMichael should not be placed under arrest," NBC News reports. By doing so, she failed "to treat Ahmaud Arbery and his family fairly and with dignity," the indictment states.

Johnson recommended that Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnill take the case from her, and the indictment alleges that prior to that referral, she had discussions with him about the investigation, something she did not disclose. Barnhill recused himself from the case in April 2020, after he defended the McMichaels in a letter to police and said they had "solid first hand probable cause" to believe Arbery was a burglary suspect.

The McMichaels and 51-year-old William "Roddie" Bryan, a neighbor who recorded the confrontation with Arbery, were arrested several months after the shooting and charged with felony murder; all have entered not guilty pleas. In November, Johnson lost her bid for re-election.