LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Never before in Michigan history have two former speakers of the House been under investigation at the same time for alleged wrongdoing.
In the case of former House Speaker Lee Chatfield, that probe is still ongoing, but in the case of former GOP House Speaker Rick Johnson, he admitted guilt and has got a plea with the feds for accepting bribes while he chaired a state commission.
His commission had the power to award lucrative state licenses to grow marijuana and Johnson admitted he accepted money under the table to assist private applicants in securing a license.
The Federal Department of Justice probe began in 2017 and ended with a Thursday announcement from U.S. Attorney Mark Totten.
“At the heart of this corruption scheme is defendant Rick Johnson, who accepted multiple bribes while serving as chair of the board, ” said Totten. “To be clear, Mr. Johnson accepted these bribes, which is to say he accepted them with the full understanding that these bribes were offered to influence him or to reward him for action he might take.”
Johnson was appointed as chair of the state marijuana panel by former Gov. Rick Snyder. From that post, he funneled valuable inside information to those who bribed him and then he voted to get them the licenses.
Two lobbyists and a fourth participant have also agreed to a plea deal, admitting their guilt in this scheme.
Totten said the judge will decide if the former speaker does time for his crime.
Meanwhile, the FBI is continuing its investigation.
“Public corruption is a top priority. Public corruption erodes public confidence and undermines the strength of our democracy,” said James Tarasca, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office.
With the plea deal, Johnson has agreed to return the $110,000, pay fines, and share all of his inside information on who else might have broken the law.