Attorneys for Faulkner County Administrator Jeff Johnston filed a motion on Friday in Faulkner County Circuit Court asking prosecutors to disclose the source of evidence to be presented at Johnston’s trial.
Johnston, 37, was charged with two counts of felony theft following his August arrest for the alleged use of $3,800 in county funds for asphalt work to his driveway.
In the document filed Friday, defense attorneys Joe Don Winningham and Jeff Rosenzweig wrote that on May 26, 2010, Johnston cooperated with federal investigators and was granted limited immunity from prosecution by the U.S. attorney’s office in exchange for information.
According to the filing, “it is well known that federal law enforcement officials have conducted an investigation of various matters in Faulkner County government.” As county administrator, the document says, “Johnston was a person encompassed by the investigation.”
Attorneys also wrote that Johnston told Arkansas State Police investigators he paid cash for the delivery and installation of the asphalt in question and that he was unaware the contractors had also billed the county for it.
“Johnston was informed that he would not be charged with any offense involving the asphalt, but the federal operatives told him that it would be proper for him to reimburse Faulkner County in the sum of approximately $3,900 because of the actions of the contractors,” defense attorneys said. “Johnston originally refused to do so because he felt that such a payment would be construed as an admission of wrongdoing. Eventually, however, as a gesture of good faith he agreed to make the payment.”
The money was paid back by check on June 23, 2010 by former civil attorney, Stephan Hawks and according to the document filed on Friday, agents “randomly picked three loads of asphalt, which for bookkeeping purposes the money would be credited.”
Defense attorneys wrote that on Oct. 3, Johnston filed a motion seeking any documents, transcripts, recordings and witness statements from the U.S. attorney’s office or the FBI related to the case, and on Oct. 10, the prosecutor claimed that he did not have any FBI documents.
“Interestingly, the prosecutor was silent on the issue of documents from the United States Attorney and did not disclose whether he had any documents obtained from state investigators who got their material while participating in or attending the proffers under the auspices of the United States Attorney or FBI,” the document reads.
In the defense filing, attorneys asked that prosecutors prove that any evidence being used against Johnston is not a direct use of statements and information provided by him or otherwise a violation of the proffer agreement, and that the court exclude any such evidence or dismiss the charges if the court finds that the “illegally used evidence permeates the State’s case.”
Prosecutor Cody Hiland declined comment on Monday, but said he would file a response within the week.
(Megan Reynolds is a staff writer and can be reached by phone at 501-505-1277 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this story and others, visit www.thecabin.net.)