Prince George's Co. Executive Johnson Sentenced to 7 Years; Dem Party Affiliation Virtually Unmentioned

Former Prince George's County, Maryland Executive Jack Johnson was sentenced today to over seven years in prison for, according to Eric Tucker at the Associated Press, "extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes during a tenure that prosecutors say was rife with greed, corruption and an unchecked pay-to-play culture." Tucker failed to identify Johnson as a Democrat.

The AP is not alone. A Google News Search on "Jack Johnson Prince George's County" (not in quotes, past 24 hours, without duplicates) returned 51 items at 11:40 p.m. tonight (the first page says 152, but it's really 51). The following number of results came back in the same search when I added the word "Democrat" (also after the jump -- sordid details of Johnson's astonishing corruption):

 


Eight.

It's really even less than that. In at least three cases (here, here, and here), Johnson's upcoming sentencing was mentioned in a multiple-item roundup which didn't tag Johnson as a Dem but contained another item about a different Dem. A fourth result, at the Washington Times of all places, only came back with "Democrat" because commenters noted the related article's failure to identify Johnson's party

Going in the other direction, The Washington Post's coverage of the sentencing of Johnson and his wife Leslie labeled each of them as "(D)." Quaint.

But the real "Name That Party" failure is in Tucker's AP report. Here are several paragraphs from his coverage (bolds are mine):

Ex-Md. county leader gets 7 years for corruption

The once-powerful former executive of a suburban Washington, D.C. county was sentenced Tuesday to more than seven years in prison for extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes during a tenure that prosecutors say was rife with greed, corruption and an unchecked pay-to-play culture.

The investigation into Jack Johnson, who led Prince George's County, Md., from 2002 to 2010, came to light last year when federal authorities tapping his phone heard him direct his wife to flush down the toilet an illicit $100,000 check from a developer and to stuff nearly $80,000 in cash in her undergarments. FBI agents had arrived at the couple's home after witnessing Jack Johnson accept $15,000 from a developer.

Since the Johnsons' arrests in November 2010, prosecutors have revealed a sweeping investigation that has touched varied corners of county life and led to charges against his wife, a former county councilwoman, as well as police officers, liquor store owners, developers and county officials. Fifteen people have been convicted in investigations into county corruption, prosecutors say. Leslie Johnson is to be sentenced later this week.

"If Jack Johnson's story were a Hollywood screenplay," U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said after the hearing, "critics would say it's too bizarre to be true."

The conviction marked a precipitous fall for Johnson, who put himself through college before becoming a lawyer with the IRS office of chief counsel, the county's top prosecutor and ultimately its powerful executive. Johnson, 62, said he was "haunted" by his actions and that he had destroyed the faith that his former constituents in Prince George's - the nation's most affluent majority-black county - had placed in him.

... Prosecutors said his schemes were numerous and varied, including steering millions of dollars in federal and local funds to certain developers in exchange for bribes; working to secure a job at the county hospital for an unqualified doctor at the behest of a developer who paid him bribes; and providing a series of favors, including favorable zoning changes and help with critical legislation, for a liquor store owner who paid him bribes and who agreed to contribute to his wife's campaign for county council.

Johnson and his co-conspirators extorted more than $1.6 million in bribes, prosecutors say.

Tucker's failure is the most egregious because it's on the AP's national wire and, as has been frequently mentioned in past "name that party" instances, the wire service's own guidelines on identifying a politician's party affiliation essentially dictate that it should be done in these circumstances simply because it's expected that many if not most readers would ordinarily want to know it. But I guess the guidelines really only apply to Republicans and conservatives.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.