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.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.