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NPR Top Stories

One of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery spoke with the DA several times

A mural of Ahmaud Arbery is on display in Brunswick, Ga., where he was shot and killed in 2020.
Sarah Blake
/
AP
A mural of Ahmaud Arbery is on display in Brunswick, Ga., where he was shot and killed in 2020.

Updated May 7, 2022 at 3:58 PM ET

Greg McMichael, a retired investigator convicted in the chase and fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, allegedly spoke on the phone multiple times with the local district attorney in the days and weeks after the killing, according to a court document obtained by NPR.

A court document filed this week describes 16 calls between McMichael's and Johnson's phone numbers that began on Feb. 23, 2020 — the date of the shooting — and ended on May 5, 2020. Many of the calls lasted less than a minute, but a call from Johnson to McMichael on April 30, 2020, lasted just over 21 minutes.

A day after the shooting, then-Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson allegedly called McMichael in a conversation that lasted more than nine minutes, prosecutors said in the misconduct case against Johnson.

"The evidence shows that Johnson showed favor and affection for McMichael throughout the pendency of the case – including when she was making decisions as the DA over his case," the filing reads.

Johnson was indicted by a grand jury last year on a felony charge of violating her oath of office and on a misdemeanor count of hindering a police investigation, according to the Associated Press.

Johnson has said she recused herself from the investigation, according to the AP. Attorneys for Johnson have asked a judge to dismiss the charges, claiming "there is not a scintilla of evidence" that Johnson interfered with the police investigation, the AP reported.

Johnson lost her race for reelection in November 2020.

John Ossick, Johnson's attorney, did not immediately respond to NPR's phone call for comment on Saturday.

Prosecutors outline alleged calls and voicemails involving Johnson

About an hour after the shooting, McMichael allegedly made two phone calls: one to his wife and another to Johnson. He left a 39-second voicemail for Johnson, according to the court document:

"Jackie, this is Greg. Could you call me as soon as you possibly can? Um...we're um...my son and I have been involved in a shooting and I need some advice right away. Could you please call me as soon as you possibly can? Thank you. Bye."

Prosecutors say when Johnson became aware of the shooting, she called George E. Barnhill, district attorney for the nearby Waycross Judicial Circuit. When she couldn't reach him, she called his son, George F. Barnhill, assistant district attorney for Glynn County, where Brunswick is located.

Johnson eventually got in touch with George E. Barnhill, according to the filing, and the two spoke on the phone for nearly 22 minutes. Johnson asked Barnhill to review the shooting and advise Glynn County's police department.

In a meeting the day after Arbery was killed, Barnhill determined "the shooting was justified," according to the document filed this week. On Feb. 27, Johnson allegedly called the attorney general's office and told a paralegal that Barnhill accepted the case.

"Johnson failed to disclose, however, that Barnhill had already reviewed the case and declared the case to be self-defense," court documents say. "Thus, Johnson effectively chose the outcome of the case despite having a conflict."

The final call court documents identify was made on May 5, 2020. It came after video of the killing was posted online. In a voicemail, McMichael thanked Johnson for a referral.

"He's gonna run interference for me right now, and that's damn good advice, and I appreciate that very much," he said.

Two days later, Greg McMichael and his son were arrested on murder charges.

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