Crime & Courts

Embattled ex-Solicitor Johnson resigns officer’s job in SC Air National Guard

Former solicitor Dan Johnson out on bond after being charged with embezzlement and misconduct in office

State Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman released former solicitor Dan Johnson on bond after being charged with embezzlement and misconduct in office
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State Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman released former solicitor Dan Johnson on bond after being charged with embezzlement and misconduct in office

Former 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson, facing state and federal charges of public corruption, has resigned his part-time position as a major in the Judge Advocate General’s office of the S.C. Air National Guard.

“He is no longer in the military. He has resigned, and he is not currently serving in the S.C. Air National Guard,” a Guard spokesman said Thursday in response to an inquiry by The State.

A federal indictment, issued in November, charges that Johnson, 48, double-dipped on expenses, stealing from the Guard. Prosecutors allege Johnson collected the same expenses for travel, lodging and meal expenses from both the Guard and his 5th Circuit solicitor’s office.

The Air National Guard spokesman did not comment on the circumstances behind Johnson’s resignation, effective Jan. 8.

Johnson’s lawyer, John Rakowsky, declined comment on his resignation.

However, sources said Johnson — a graduate of South Carolina’s military college, The Citadel — was asked to resign.

Former state Sen. Phil Leventis, who flew fighter jets for the S.C. Air National Guard, said the Air National Guard is an elite unit and members don’t usually resign without good reason.

“It’s not something you give up lightly,” said Leventis, who was in the Air National Guard for 45 years before retiring in 1999.

As a major in the Judge Advocate General’s group of the Guard, Johnson handled legal issues. On occasion, he traveled at Guard expense out of the country, including visiting the South American nation of Colombia. Johnson also briefed Colombian military lawyers when they visited South Carolina in 2015.

Johnson’s federal indictment also cites another alleged scheme that Johnson used to bilk the military.

While on official Air National Guard travel, Johnson “drove a 5th Circuit Solicitor’s office vehicle” but then filed for mileage reimbursement from the Guard, the indictment said.

“As a result, the Air National Guard deposited money into Daniel E. Johnson’s personal account, thereby converting the military funds for his person use,” the indictment says.

The indictment charges Johnson embezzled $7,102 from the Guard.

In his solicitor’s post, which he held for nearly eight years until being suspended last fall after his indictment, Johnson was the chief prosecutor for Richland and Kershaw counties. He had a salary of about $140,000 a year and a staff of some 140 employees.

Johnson’s top aide, Nicole Holland, who also was charged with embezzlement, has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify at Johnson’s trial, now scheduled for March.

A year ago, Johnson was the incumbent solicitor and expected to cruise to a third four-year term in office. But after a public-interest foundation, Public Access to Public Records, released records of his spending, Johnson lost the Democratic primary by a landslide to Byron Gipson, the current solicitor.

John Monk has covered courts, crime, politics, public corruption, the environment and other issues in the Carolinas for more than 40 years. A U.S. Army veteran who covered the 1989 American invasion of Panama, Monk is a former Washington correspondent for The Charlotte Observer. He has covered numerous death penalty trials, including that of the Charleston church killer, Dylann Roof.


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