Supporters Rally Behind Rick Johnson Amid Bribery Charges

September 15th, 2023 Legal & Crime
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Prominent figures, including the father of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former state legislators, have rallied in support of Rick Johnson, ex-House Speaker, as his fate hangs in the balance amid bribery allegations during his tenure with Michigan's now-defunct Medical Marijuana Licensing Board.

Johnson's defense, led by attorney Nicholas Dondzila, submitted a memo late Thursday accompanied by letters from 20 influential personalities. Notably, among the writers were Richard Whitmer, former CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan; ex-Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville; and ex-Representatives such as Larry Julian, James Howell, and others.

Richard Whitmer, in a candid statement, admitted, "We all err, but our true mettle is tested by our response." Back in April, he penned his belief in Johnson's potential for reform, stating that Johnson had committed a "grave error" but will ensure to steer clear of any misdeeds in the future.

The prosecution is pushing for Johnson, 70, to serve a minimum of six years behind bars. However, Dondzila argues for clemency, highlighting Johnson's cooperative nature with investigators, his unblemished past record, his years of public service, and the extensive support he's garnered.

The ex-House Speaker, a Republican hailing from LeRoy, held his position from 2001-2004. After serving his term, he became a lobbyist for 12 years. His subsequent appointment to the marijuana licensing board in 2017 by then-Gov. Rick Snyder has now become a focal point of controversy. Admissions of accepting over $110,200 in cash and perks from licensing aspirants have been confirmed, including alleged bribes of sexual deeds.

However, Johnson's peers, such as Richardville, remember him differently. In August, Richardville penned a letter emphasizing Johnson's effectiveness as a leader, despite not being "perfect and/or polished."

Many have described Johnson as a man full of regret, who shouldn't be solely judged based on this crime but on his lifetime's worth of actions. Edward Gaffney mentioned in June that Johnson feels deeply apologetic for the dishonor he has caused.

In related news, another defendant, businessman John Dawood Dalaly of West Bloomfield Township, recently received a two-year prison sentence for bribing Johnson. Meanwhile, two cannabis business lobbyists, Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown, await their sentencing on October 18th.

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