Submitted by Susan Hardee Steger
After an eleven month legal battle, the Nassau County State Attorney’s Office dropped a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge against former county commissioner and board chair Stacy Johnson. According to the Nassau County Clerk of Courts website, the DUI case is “nolle prosequi” which is Latin for “we shall no longer prosecute.” A nolle prosequi statement “is an admission [to Judge from prosecutor] that the charges cannot be proved, that evidence has demonstrated either innocence or a fatal flaw in the prosecution’s claim, or the district attorney has become convinced the accused is innocent,” according to legaldictionary.com
When asked for comments, a reluctant Johnson addressed the initial media reports and subsequent arrest saying “in politics accusations are more important than facts.” In a previous Fernandina Observer article, “Commissioner Johnson’s Attorney Raises ‘Red Flags’ On DUI Charge,” Attorney Gary Baker cited “a previous highly publicized tiff with Sheriff Tommy Seagraves.”
Johnson and Baker were involved in several discussions with representatives from the State Attorney’s Office. Johnson stated former Assistant State Attorney Wes White offered to drop the initial charge of DUI if Johnson pleaded guilty to reckless driving and resign from her elected position. Johnson replied firmly to White’s request saying, “I am not interested in stepping down from the position I was elected to serve.” White was not involved in the Johnson case after December 2012, as he declined to accept reappointment for State Attorney Angela Corey’s upcoming term.
Johnson did plead “no contest” to reckless driving on May 20, 2013. As reported in the Fernandina Observer, “a motorist’s 911 call to report an SUV ‘running off the road and nearly striking a vehicle head-on’ led to the DUI arrest of Nassau County Commission Chairwoman Stacy Johnson.” Johnson later claimed her erratic driving was due to texting while driving.
Reckless driving is a second degree misdemeanor. Court records show “Adjudication Withheld.” According to Baker, Johnson will have no points on her driver’s license, and legally is “not convicted.”
“The State Attorneys and court systems do sometimes get things right,” says Attorney Baker. “I applaud Steve Siegel, [prosecutor] who in spite of outside pressures, did the right thing.”
May 28, 2013 5:26 p.m.