Former Assistant District Attorney J. Floyd Johnson was sentenced Wednesday in federal court to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty late last year to a single count of tax evasion. The ex-prosecutor will also serve three years supervised probation upon release from prison and must pay the feds roughly $180,000 in restitution.
"I can truly say I came into this hearing not knowing what I was going to do," U.S. District Judge Richard Haik said before handing down the sentence, which falls on the low end of the recommended guidelines. While some might not see the wisdom in locking up someone with Johnson's education and background, Haik noted, "If you don't put him in jail for what he has done, it sends a terrible message." The judge said that during the hearing he toyed with sentencing Johnson above the recommended 18-24 month guidelines as the evidence of his scheme to hide assets was presented. In the end, however, the judge agreed with U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley, who said that Johnson's professional background and work as an ADA should not factor into the sentencing. She asked the judge to hand down a sentence that would be consistent with similar tax evasion cases.
Before announcing the sentence, Haik ran through a number of the means Johnson used to hide his assets and avoid tax obligations: he bought two pieces of property for $16,000 each at separate times in 1994 and 1995 and put them in his mother-in-law's name because he had a 1993 tax lien of $49,000 against him; he then had her donate the property to his brother in 1999 and later took out $500,000 in construction and long-term financing loans in his brother's name to build a home for his own family on the site. Floyd Johnson initially lied to investigators, saying his brother, Chris Johnson, owned the home and that he was only renting it. In most of the transactions to execute the scheme, it was Johnson himself who notarized documents and filed them in the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court's office. "If there isn't a scheme here, there ain't no such thing as a scheme," Haik said.
Referencing the team of respected local attorneys led by Valerie Garrett and Rickey Miniex who are also Johnson's good friends, Haik noted that the former prosecutor had "such a bright future, so many people who liked him." Despite that he was only charged with one count of tax evasion, court records indicate that Johnson failed to file income tax returns from 2003 to 2008, and often was late or did not pay his tax obligations dating back to the early 1990s. "[Johnson] flaunted around for years without paying income tax," Haik continued. "It shows he had very little respect for this particular law.
"I mean, you had the money," Haik said to the defendant. Court testimony revealed that Johnson's annual income was often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, from the DA's office and settlements from a private practice. "I know you don't feel like you got a break, but you did," Haid told Johnson. Had it not been for the taxes that were automatically deducted from his AD salary, Johnson's pattern proves he would have tried to avoid paying any taxes at all for more than a decade. "It appears that he really just didn't care," Haik said.
"Clearly judge, there were things that were good in Mr. Johnson's life," defense attorney Garrett said in asking the court for leniency. Garrett, however, acknowledged that Johnson's "personal life was a mess" for years. "How he lived in that mess, I can't even imagine," she said.
As for Johnson himself, the disgraced former prosecutor had little to say in his own defense. "I feel badly about the way I did these things," he said, noting his refusal to file and pay taxes. "As an officer of the court, I was remiss and I apologize."
Johnson reports to prison July 7.
For more of the back story on Johnson, click here.
JUNE 17 If anyone ever wonders why Saints fans hate Atlanta with a capital H, here's a good indication. Radio "professionals" at an Atlanta station created an entire segment around making fun of former Saints player Steve Gleason, who is now paralyzed by ALS. Listen, nobody's ever accused DJs of being rocket scientists. But how could someone think it is amusing to pretend to ask a man with a degenerative, fatal disease if he will be alive next week? The DJs have been fired, and are now whining about how gutless their former bosses are. Wow.
JUNE 18 Here's the latest from the Advocate on the fatal hit-and-run accident allegedly involving the president of the Livingston Parish School Board. He's accused by police of hitting a 21-year-old man on a highway early Sunday and driving away. The man died at a hospital later. On Monday, police seized the president's truck and towed it away. But he's available for board meetings: apparently a $500 bond is sufficient for this type of thing over in St. Helena Parish.
JUNE 18 Former broadcast journalist Griffin Scott has posted this plea on his blog for financial assistance from his readers. Scott, who says he was fired after he wrote something fairly innocuous (for Facebook) on his wall, is suing a media giant for his job back. He's framed himself as David going after a bloated media giant, and he's probably not far off.
JUNE 18 Here's a fairly absurd column posted on DIG Magazine about the completely absurd practice of naming killer storms. Tornadoes don't have names. Blizzards don't have names. But hurricanes do, and there's a big process to bestow them, Jacques Cormery writes. He's right about the crazy assemblage of names -- this year, there's everything from Tanya to Humberto -- and his idea that we don't waste good names on killer storms is a good one.
JUNE 17 Political columnist John Maginnis has some advice for Louisiana Republicans: grow up. After the schism that occurred in this past session - fiscal hawks teaming up with Democrats to spank the Republican "majority" and hand Gov. Jindal his, er, aspirations for continued solon control -- they need to figure out how to get along with each other, Maginnis writes.
JUNE 17 Here's the Picayune's obit story for Dorothy 'Miss Dot' Domilise, the lady who made poboys at the uptown restaurant that bears her name. Miss Dot moved to New Orleans during World War II, where she met and married her husband Sam. When she passed away Friday she was 90, and had spent more than 60 of those years working at the restaurant on Annunciation Street.
JUNE 17 This editorial in the Advocate speaks in favor of the consent decrees that have federal judges overseeing police operations and the sheriff's parish prison in New Orleans. Mayor Landrieu and Sheriff Gusman can't get along, so outside forces, like the Inspector General and the judges, are needed to make sure things run right, the editorial opines.
JUNE 18 Here's a post from Manny Schewitz on Forward Progressives that is good for a chuckle. Manny had an epiphany back in November, and is sharing it with us today: he believes that Fox "News" is killing the GOP by pandering to right wing nuts. Now, don't get it twisted: Manny's not broke up about it. He says he enjoys watching the downward spiral with a shot of whiskey and "a schadenfreude chaser."
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.