Crime & Courts

New state charges filed against former SC Solicitor Dan Johnson, onetime top aide

John Monk

A state grand jury has filed new public corruption charges against former 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson and his former top aide, Nicole Holland, the S.C. Attorney General’s office said Friday.

Johnson and Holland were indicted on public corruption charges, including embezzlement of public money, in September by a state grand jury. Those charges came days after a federal grand jury indicted both on similar federal charges.

Johnson and Holland were — and are — targets of a joint FBI-State Law Enforcement Division investigation. State and federal authorities sometimes proceed on parallel tracks in their investigations.

Neither Johnson nor his lawyer, John Rakowsky, could be reached for comment Friday.

Holland’s lawyer, Clarence Davis, told The State, the new charges against his client make “no sense.”

“Nicole is, obviously, already cooperating with both state and federal authorities.”

The state grand jury indictment announced Friday adds a new charge against Johnson — obtaining property by false pretenses — and focuses on the ex-prosecutor’s service as a part-time major in the S.C. Air National Guard.

Specifically, the new state indictment says, Johnson received “more than $2,000” in expense reimbursements from the National Guard for travel expenses that already had been paid for with a credit card issued by the solicitor’s office.

Johnson resigned in January from the National Guard’s judge advocate general’s office, where he handled legal matters.

In November, a federal grand jury in Columbia added a new charge against Johnson — stealing from the National Guard by double-billing it for about $7,000 worth of travel and lodging expenses that the solicitor’s office already had paid for via credit card.

The new indictment also adds new charges against Holland — forgery and perjury.

According to the new charges, Holland used a credit card from the solicitor’s office to pay for personal expenses, then altered copies of bank statements that she included with her expense reports “as justification for payment” to her.

Holland also lied while “under oath in probate court” about expenses she claimed she had personally incurred but “which were in fact paid with the government credit card” issued to the solicitor’s office, the new indictment says.

Holland, who was in charge of credit cards and other budget matters in Johnson’s office for more than seven years, already has pleaded guilty to two charges of mail and wire fraud in federal court She is expected to testify against Johnson in his March trial in federal court.

Johnson, 47, first was elected to a four-year term in the solicitor’s office in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. The Democrat was expected to win a third term last November.

But after news accounts last spring about Johnson’s questionable spending, the incumbent lost his June Democratic primary contest. Gov. Henry McMaster suspended Johnson from office in September, after he was indicted.

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.