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Former N.O. councilman gets six months in jail

3rd December 2012   ·   0 Comments

Jon Johnson, a former state legislator and member of the New Orleans City Council, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Lance Afrik Thursday to six months in federal jail after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit theft of federal funds and submitting false documents to a federal department.

Johnson faced a maximum five-year sentence for routing nearly $80,000 in FEMA funds through two charities and into a campaign fund for his failed 2007 bid for the State Senate. Johnson was not servant at the time of his crimes. He also admitted to submitting false invoices to the Small Business Administration justifying a low interest loan for work done on his home to repair flood damage.

Pleading for leniency at Thursday’s hearing, Johnson asked Africk to take his family situation into account. Johnson, whose wife died in 2011, is the sole caretaker of his eight-year-old daughter.

“I stand before you this afternoon simply saying that I made a terrible mistake that I regret,” Johnson said. “I have an eight-year-old daughter that I’ve been caring for for the past year-and-a-half … Please be lenient and please consider my personal circumstances with my daughter.”

“The court is not indifferent to the fact that life is not a snapshot but a videotape,” Africk said, noting that the court received more than 100 letters of support for Johnson, “attest[ing] to the good deeds that you have performed during your lifetime and the positive impact that you have had on people’s lives.”

However, Africk added, “You ask that I not punish your daughter for what you did. I understand what you were trying to say, but let me be crystal clear. This court is not punishing your daughter. The collateral consequences of your conduct are on your shoulders and not the court’s shoulders.”

Johnson is scheduled to begin his sentence on January 8. In addition to prison time, Judge Africk levied a fine of $5,000 and ordered Johnson to pay $79,691 in restitution for the money he stole from FEMA.

Johnson’s co-co-defendants Asif Gafur and Roy Lewis pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme in October. Both are scheduled to be sentenced in January.

This article originally published in the December 3, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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