Ex-Hinds assistant D.A. to enter guilty plea

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JACKSON – Ivon Johnson, a former Hinds County assistant district attorney, is scheduled to plead guilty Thursday to one federal count of conspiracy to take money in exchange for favors to criminal defendants.

Johnson was charged July 15 through what’s called a bill of information, which is a legal charge by the U.S. government that doesn’t go through a grand jury.

The docket for the U.S. District Court for southern Mississippi indicates Johnson will enter a guilty plea on Thursday. It also shows Johnson is due to be arraigned and enter a plea on Wednesday before Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson.

His appearance Thursday is set before U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee. The docket does not show Johnson with legal representation.

The one-count charge against Johnson claims that from shortly after June 2013 until February 2016, he participated in a scheme with “others” to accept money for “a transaction or a series of transactions” by the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office involving $5,000 or more. He is accused of accepting “at least $15,000” from an unnamed co-conspirator.

Specifically, the government accuses him of accepting $500 to help reduce the bond of a defendant cited as “S.B.” from $15,000 to about $3,500.

Johnson reportedly has not worked in the D.A.’s office since July 18.

Action against Johnson came less than a month after his then-boss, District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, was accused on six misdemeanor state charges of illegally helping criminal defendants.

Smith has not responded publicly to the charges, but his attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, will press his case for dismissal on Wednesday before Circuit Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes.

Waide also is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to dismiss Circuit Judge Jeff Weill’s prohibition of Smith to act in his court as district attorney. And he’s seeking to have unsealed a variety of documents and hearing minutes related to Smith’s case.

Johnson’s prosecution is being led by Allison Duncan Bushnell, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana in Shreveport, after the Jackson-based U.S. attorney’s office removed itself from the case because of potential conflicts of interest.

Johnson faces a sentence of up to five years in prison and the loss of his law license. He could not be reached for comment.