U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk today sentenced former New Orleans City Councilman Jon Johnson to six months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit theft of federal funds and submitting false documents to a federal department. Johnson pleaded guilty and resigned from his District E City Council seat in July.
Johnson faced a maximum five year penalty for routing nearly $80,000 in FEMA funds through two charities and into a campaign fund for his failed 2007 bid for the State Senate. Johnson was not a public servant at the time of his crimes. He also admitted to submitting false invoices to the Small Business Administration justifying a low interest loan for work done on his home to repair flood damage.
Pleading for leniency at today's hearing, Johnson asked Africk to take his family situation into account. Johnson, whose wife died in 2011, is the sole caretaker of his 8-year-old daughter.
"I stand before you this afternoon simply saying that I made a terrible mistake that I regret," he said. "I have an 8-year-old daughter that I've been caring for for the past year-and-a-half ... Please be lenient and please consider my personal circumstances with my daughter."
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"The court is not indifferent to the fact that life is not a snapshot but a videotape," Africk said, noting that the court received more than 100 letters of support for Johnson, "attest[ing] to the good deeds that you have performed during your lifetime and the positive impact that you have had on people's lives."
However, Africk added, "You ask that I not punish your daughter for what you did. I understand what you were trying to say, but let me be crystal clear. This court is not punishing your daughter. The collateral consequences of your conduct are on your shoulders and not the court's shoulders."
Johnson is scheduled to begin his sentence on January 8. Along with prison time, Africk levied a fine of $5,000 and ordered him to pay $79,691 in restitution for the money he stole from FEMA.
Johnson's co-conspirators Asif Gafur and Roy Lewis pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme in October. Both are scheduled to be sentenced in January.