Former Cleveland City Councilman Ken Johnson sentenced to 6 years in prison
Updated: 4:55 p.m., Friday, Oct. 8, 2021
U.S. District Court Judge John Adams sentenced former Cleveland City Councilman Ken Johnson to six years in federal prison Friday. He'll also pay $746,000 in restitution to the IRS, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city of Cleveland. He's been taken into custody.
“I can’t state how important it is at this point in time that we hold our public officials accountable,” Adams said before announcing the prison sentence. “The criminal acts undermine in many ways the good work he’s done.”
Johnson’s attorney, Myron Watson, argued that Johnson’s years of public service since his election to council in 1980, warranted a shorter sentence.
“At the end of the day, your honor, the very neighborhood the government says Mr. Johnson victimized are the very people Mr. Johnson has given a voice,” Watson said.
Up until his conviction in July, Johnson represented Ward 4 on the city’s southeast side.
His former executive assistant, Garnell Jamison, was sentenced to five years in prison.
“This is not some one-time occurrence, this is a pattern over a number of years,” Adams said.
Jamison’s attorney had portrayed his client as a loyal subordinate to Johnson who didn’t realize he was doing anything wrong.
Johnson and Jamison were convicted in July for conducting years-long schemes to evade taxes and steal public money.
Johnson was convicted on all 15 counts for submitting false monthly expense reimbursement records to Cleveland City Council, using the defunct Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corporation to funnel federal grant money to his personal bank account and filing false tax returns with the IRS.
Jamison was convicted on all 11 counts brought by the federal government for his involvement in the expense records scheme and the false tax returns.
The former head of the Buckeye Shaker Square community development organization, David Hopkins, has a sentencing hearing scheduled for Oct. 10 in Adams’ court.
The prosecution asked for a prison sentence of between nine and 10 years for Johnson and six to a little over seven years for Jamison. The attorneys for both men argued for lenient sentences because of their standing in the community and stable family lives.
Johnson’s hearing in front of the judge started poorly Friday when it came to light that he was still living in his house in Ward 4. The prosecution had asked that Johnson be held in custody between the end of the trial and sentencing because he lived near the home of a key government witness in the case.
Johnson had told the judge that he would spend the time before sentencing living in a new apartment outside the ward. That move never happened.
Johnson said very little before sentencing, only that he had come to realize he had made mistakes but did not purposely break the law.