Rick Johnson Starts 55-Month Sentence in Federal Prison for Bribery Scandal

December 2nd, 2023 Legal & Crime Ryan Spegal
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Former Michigan House Speaker Rick Johnson, aged 70, has begun serving a 55-month sentence at a federal prison in Minnesota, following his conviction in a bribery scandal that tainted Michigan's marijuana industry. Johnson, once a prominent Republican lawmaker and later a key figure in regulating the state's marijuana sector, was confirmed as an inmate at the FPC Duluth, a minimum-security facility located near Lake Superior, as per the latest inmate database.

Before his fall from grace, Johnson was a powerful figure in Lansing. His journey from a lawmaker to a lobbyist and eventually the chief regulator of Michigan's burgeoning marijuana industry came to an ignominious end after he was found to have received over $110,000 in bribes. His tenure as chairman of the medical marijuana licensing board from May 2017 to April 2019 was marred by these illegal transactions, involving marijuana lobbyists and a businessman. Notably, these bribes included encounters with a sex worker, who referred to him as "Batman."

Johnson's incarceration follows an unsuccessful bid to reduce his prison time and a request to serve part of his sentence under house arrest, citing health concerns from recent heart bypass surgery. He had been granted a postponement to begin his sentence in late October, but U.S. District Judge Jane Beckering refused a further delay. Johnson's attorney, Nicholas Dondzila, had argued for an extension until February 1st, 2023, citing ongoing medical needs and potential treatments that would pose a financial burden on the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

This case marks the most significant public corruption scandal in Michigan's capital in three decades. Johnson was accused of manipulating the state marijuana industry, an action Judge Beckering described as an "unfettered abuse of power." In April, Johnson admitted to accepting bribes to influence his decisions on the licensing board.

Three other individuals, including two lobbyists and a businessman, also pleaded guilty in the bribery scheme but have yet to begin their prison sentences. Lobbyist Brian Pierce is serving a two-year sentence in Pennsylvania, while lobbyist Vince Brown is serving 20 months in a separate federal facility in the same state. Oakland County businessman John Dawood Dalaly is serving a 28-month sentence in West Virginia.

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