“When you get down in the swamp, you have to have a little confidence and you need to have the confidence of the people. I was getting it and I’m having that now,” Johnson said. “When you’re working, you just don’t get down.”
It didn’t always work as planned. A few years ago, Johnson was arrested in an alleged beating by members of the New Orleans police union and his supporters over his arrest for allegedly driving while suspended. Johnson’s car was impounded for more than a day while he fought for his freedom in court, at time he told police he was a passenger, then later claimed he was under arrest.
“When he says he was in a car, I’m thinking, ‘What car?’ Well there’s a car that’s got a guy in it,” attorney William Bunch (D-New Orleans) said. “They put him in that car, so that made me feel that he’s guilty.”
But Johnson’s newfound confidence in the courtroom will pay dividends from a court of law when he gets a trial. Bunch and Johnson have each represented more than one other on misdemeanor cases and their advice may come in handy as the case takes shape later this year.
Bunch said he had some advice about how he can help Johnson, like what to say when you have something to say that can be used against an accused defendant, such as “I’m glad he’s being tried because of what he did.”
While the public’s perception of Johnson may be a joke that’s been made up, some say Bunch is actually helping him.
“His case really illustrates the issues we faced during the ’70s and ’80s with the crack epidemic in New Orleans,” said Mike Smith (D-Westwego).
Smith said he has been on the front lines of the criminal justice system for a quarter century, where he is often called upon to represent people arrested for serious crimes. Smith says he will be able to help in particular Johnson with his first scheduled court date this summer when Johnson is expected to be arraigned.
Johnson’s lawyers say they will argue his innocence, especially knowing there’s not enough circumstantial evidence, but that they do not expect to do that in court.
“We want to see the actual evidence and I know for a fact that the prosecutor will not bring in as much to be credible as he can,” Bunch said.
Johnson’s former public defender, Mary Jo
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