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Longtime council assistant 'at peace' on eve of sentencing for federal program theft charges

Prosectors push for prison for ex-councilman, aide
Garnell Jamison
Posted at 6:34 PM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 19:14:17-04

CLEVELAND — On the eve of his sentencing on federal corruption charges, longtime Cleveland city council assistant Garnell Jamison said he's at peace and ready for whatever sentence a judge hands down Friday.

Jamison and former Cleveland City Councilman Kenneth Johnson were convicted in July of several charges stemming from allegations that the pair worked together to steer more than $100,000 of federal money intended to help Ward 4 residents into bank accounts controlled by Johnson.

"The system worked and I'm going through the process, my peers found me guilty so I'm going to stand up to it," said Jamison outside his Ward 4 home Thursday.

Johnson represented Cleveland's Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood on the council for 40 years.

Jamison had served as Johnson's assistant since 1992. He said he believes the neighborhood is a better place because of the work the pair did.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," said Jamison. "We appreciate all the help and support you gave us through the years."

But in a filing with the court, federal prosecutors argued: "past good deeds do not mitigate the Defendants' actions in using funds intended for one of Cleveland's most vulnerable communities to enrich the man who was elected to represent that community."

Prosecutors are asking the judge to sentence Johnson to at least nine years in prison. They ask that Jamison spends at least six years behind bars.

"What I hope for is mercy," said Jamison. "To be honest with you what I hope for is mercy."

The 62-year-old wouldn't discuss the specifics of the case.

But in a court filing, Jamison's attorney said he maintains his innocence and wrote, "the evidence established that he recklessly followed Johnson's instructions."

Johnson's attorneys asked the judge for leniency at sentencing, citing the 75-year-old's age, and said the former councilman may be in the early stages of dementia.

Among those who wrote letters to the judge in support of Johnson was former Cleveland City Councilman George Forbes, who called Johnson a "tireless and dedicated public servant" and called Johnson's contributions to the city and his constituents, "monumental and not easily duplicated."

Jamison said he still considers Johnson a friend and called the convictions a "hiccup."

He said he's leaning on his faith to get through these times, and had this message to those who see him as another example of political corruption in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.

"I'm out of the way," said Jamison. "I'm gone. I'm through. Uncle. I'm crying uncle."