Attorney calls ‘hogwash’ on DA’s claim election commissioner violated terms of her bond by traveling out of state
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - An attorney for Hinds County Election Commissioner Toni Johnson is calling the state’s claim that she violated the terms of her bond by traveling out of state “hogwash.”
Tuesday, a new bond order was entered for Johnson, who is facing multiple charges in connection with a 2020 election grant embezzlement scheme.
The order was handed down one day after the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office asked for her previous bond to be revoked, saying the commissioner violated the conditions of the agreement by traveling out-of-state.
“Johnson is in willful and obstinate violation of this court’s order, has materially breached the conditions of her release... and should necessarily have a warrant for her arrest issued to procure her immediate presence at a hearing on the merits of [this] motion,” attorneys for the state wrote.
They claimed Johnson was in Washington, D.C., and backed that up with Global Positioning System monitoring reports, and “flagrant social media posts” posted by Johnson during her trip.
Lisa Ross, Johnson’s attorney, called the motion leading to the order “hogwash” and says the DA is more interested in prosecuting her client than actual criminals. She also argues Johnson did not violate her previous bond, because it did not prohibit her from leaving the state.
“It did not contain specific language that said she had to speak to the judge. If they wanted it in there, they should’ve put it in there,” she said.
Johnson’s first amended bond order was filed in September after the District 2 leader was reindicted in a case involving the misspending of hundreds of thousands of dollars in election grant money awarded to Hinds County.
In that order, Judge Jess Dickinson said Johnson had to submit to GPS monitoring and could not contact her alleged co-conspirators also accused in the matter. However, he did not specifically prohibit the commissioner from traveling.
Rather, Dickinson only acknowledged that prosecutors had asked that she be held to the same conditions as her initial February bond, which did prohibit traveling without the court’s permission.
The newest bond order entered on October 4 clears up that confusion. In it, Johnson must not leave the state without the court’s OK, must submit to GPS monitoring, and must meet with her attorney and bonding agent as directed. Her bond amount remains set at $100,000.
The order is slated to take effect within 48 hours of Johnson returning to the state, special appointed Dickinson wrote.
Social media posts show that Johnson was in D.C., this month. In one photo, she posed with a local attorney she ran into there. In another, she is seen standing next to a ballot drop box.
“While headed to dinner with my sister, I ran across a SAFE, SECURE, and legitimate drop box for voting in D.C.,” Johnson’s post reads. “It’s past time Mississippi enacted such laws that promote easy access to the ballot box!”
According to court records, the state says it learned Johnson had “absconded from the jurisdiction” on October 1.
“Upon further examination and after a cursory review of Commissioner Johnson’s social media profiles, the state discovered the defendant has been posting pictures of herself with various politicians, and indicating that her location is Washington, D.C.,” the motion states.
A day later, the state received a copy of Johnson’s location history from Adept Global, the company that provides her GPS monitoring. According to that report, she had been in D.C. for at least 48 hours.
Ross called bunk on claims that her client “absconded,”, saying her client wore her ankle monitoring device at all times and never tampered with it.
“A person who absconds doesn’t leave a tracking device on,” she said. “She hasn’t been found guilty. She hasn’t pleaded guilty.”
The commissioner was originally indicted in February and reindicted on September 7. She is charged with nine counts of conspiracy, 5 counts of fraudulent writings, 5 counts of fraudulent claims, 5 counts of bribery, and 2 counts of embezzlement.
Several social media posts were included in the court records. They are shown below.
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