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Cleveland councilman Kenneth Johnson, assistant found guilty in corruption case

Kenneth Johnson.jpg
Posted at 2:15 PM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 19:04:33-04

AKRON, Ohio — After a federal trial in Akron that lasted about a week and a half, a jury found Cleveland City Councilman Kenneth Johnson and his assistant Garnell Jamison guilty of all charges related to the accusation that they conspired to steal federal funds and divert the money to bank accounts controlled by Johnson.

Johnson was found guilty on all counts: two counts of conspiracy to commit federal program theft, six counts of federal program theft, five counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, one count of tampering with a witness and one count of falsification of records in a federal investigation.

Jamison, 61, of Cleveland was found guilty of 11 counts, including federal program theft and tampering with a witness.

Johnson will be sentenced on Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. Jameson will be sentenced on Oct 8 at 2 p.m.

They are allowed to stay on bond, but can't have any communication with any prosecution witnesses, or they will be sent to jail.

Johnson has been a council member since 1980. Throughout the trial, prosecutors painted Johnson as a scheming politician who was primarily concerned with lining his own pockets.

According to the prosecutors, Johnson concocted several schemes over the years to pocket reimbursement money for services never performed and to steal federal funds.

Prosecutors stated that between January 2010 and October 2018, Johnson submitted falsified paperwork to obtain a $1,200 reimbursement each month. Attorneys said that each councilperson is able to submit up to $1,200 each month for services performed that benefit their ward. In Johnson's case, no such services were ever done, they said.

Prosecutors for the case said Johnson abused a relationship he had with city recreation manager Robert Fitzpatrick in order to cheat the system out of more than one hundred $1,200 checks. Back in 2010, prosecutors said that Fitzpatrick performed around two months of work but was never paid for it. But Johnson's paperwork said Fitzpatrick continued to do work each month for years on end in order to get the $1,200 maximum allowed through city reimbursement.

Furthermore, prosecutors said Johnson conducted a scheme to steal federal grant money from the Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corporation.

Johnson's attorney, Myron Watson, pushed back on accusations that Johnson was corrupt and asked the jury not to fall for the labeling and stereotypes of politicians.

Watson said the government wanted to paint Johnson as someone who pillaged the Buckeye neighborhood, but evidence showed that is not the case.

With Johnson's guilty verdict, he is no longer a city councilman.

Cleveland City Council issued the following statement regarding the matter:

"A federal jury convicted Kenneth Johnson today of corruption and tax charges. Johnson’s executive assistant, Garnell Jamison, was also convicted of similar charges. Under Ohio law the felony conviction means Johnson is no longer a council member. He had been suspended in April by a special commission formed by the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court but was allowed to retain his both his title and salary during the suspension. With today’s conviction that is no longer true."

RELATED: Trial begins for Cleveland councilman accused of defrauding city and feds