Former election commissioner to submit to ‘very restrictive’ house arrest program as part of plea deaI

Toni Johnson confers with her attorney at the Hinds County Courthouse Monday.
Toni Johnson confers with her attorney at the Hinds County Courthouse Monday.(WLBT)
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 6:41 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A former Hinds County election commissioner has avoided jail time but must submit to what a judge says is a “very restrictive” house arrest program as part of her plea deal.

On Monday, Toni Johnson pleaded guilty to three felony counts in connection with misspending election grant money during her time in office.

[Read: Hinds Co. Commissioner Toni Johnson pleads guilty in embezzlement case]

Johnson, who previously served District 2, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with 15 years suspended and the remaining five under the authority of the Mississippi Department of Corrections’ “Intensive Supervision Program.”

Johnson was required to report to the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office Tuesday morning.

Even though she’s not behind bars, the next five years likely will not be a cake walk.

ISP includes a litany of conditions, such as being required to live in a residence approved by MDOC and being allowed to relocate only with prior MDOC approval.

Failure to comply with those conditions and others can result in sanctions and/or incarceration, according to corrections officials.

Johnson was sentenced by Justice Jess Dickinson, who was appointed to preside over the case after the county’s circuit court judge recused themselves.

She initially faced 26 counts following an investigation by the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office.

The judge informed the former commissioner of the program’s requirements during her sentencing.

“I want to make sure you understand that they have certain restrictions and requirements that you have to follow that are not in this petition,” Dickinson said, referring to the plea agreement. “They are very restrictive.”

Other ISP mandates require participants to remain in their residences at all times, only leaving for approved activities, such as work, church or doctor visits.

Moves outside of the home also will be tracked, meaning Johnson will likely be required to submit documentation regarding trips, and wear an electronic monitoring device at all times.

The judge removed the ankle monitoring device she was required to wear as part of her bond agreement Monday night.

ISP also mandates that participants maintain and charge their GPS monitoring devices at all times and that they pay for devices if they are lost, stolen or damaged.

Prohibited visits include trips to liquor stores, bars, nightclubs, casinos and the like. ISP participants also cannot associate with certain individuals, like other convicted felons, or own or possess weapons or be in possession of alcohol or drugs.

On top of those requirements, those in ISP must avoid breaking any city, county, state or federal laws during the probationary period, and must report even minor infractions, such as traffic citations, to their supervising agents.

MDOC reserves the right to visit participants’ homes or places of employment at any time.

Despite those restrictions, Dickinson said he was hopeful Johnson would make it through and get her life back on track.

“I’m a very strong believer in second chances in life, and you will survive this,” he told the court. “So, I wish you well... I hope you complete your sentence and get back on track with your life. I know that you can do that.”

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