Jack Johnson collects $50K from pension despite conviction

Johnson can collect about $50,000 a year despite a seven-year prison sentence. (Photo: WJLA)

Despite being sentenced to more than seven years in jail, former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson will still receive a good-sized annual pension, an ABC7 I-Team investigation has uncovered.

Due to a loophole in Maryland law, Johnson will collect nearly $50,000 from a pension fund, even after his conviction on federal corruption charges earlier this year.

Johnson admitted to extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from developers and business owners while in office.

Described by one federal official as the poster child for corruption, Johnson gets to keep his pension for life because he was convicted after leaving office.

The loophole has been around for decades. Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon continues to collect her $83,000 a year pension despite her 2009 conviction of embezzling gift cards intended for needy children.

Maryland delegate Ron George is drafting a bill to change the loophole.

"You should resign first, knowing that you are going to be convicted and you get a lifetime sentence," George said.

ABC7 confirmed through the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System that Johnson began collecting an annual pension of $49,552 in January, based on his 23 years of public service.

"I think it's awful, especially for the people who can't afford it," said Diane Nichols, a Prince George's County resident. "It's hard enough to pay for somebody else's mistakes."

Some believed Johnson's 23 years of public service should be worth something, though.

"I think he should get [the pension]," said Eric Taylor, resident. "He worked for it, you know."

If he ends up serving his entire seven-year sentence, he will walk out of jail with nearly $350,000.

Johnson's wife, Leslie, who was recently sentenced in federal prison for her role, did not serve long enough as a council member to earn a pension.

When ABC7 attempted to speak to Johnson about his pension, he declined to comment and asked reporters to leave his property.

In Virginia, the General Assembly passed a law earlier this year saying that elected officials who commit a felony lose their pension, even if convicted after leaving office.

In comparison, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was forced to forfeit his $64,000 annual state pension but will still keep his $15,000 federal pension.