New Orleans — The arrest of a criminal court employee Thursday came after authorities recorded the woman accepting a bribe to allow someone to avoid serving their community service time last month, according to court documents.
When news broke of the arrest of Cassandra Johnson, 49, authorities released few details about the incident. However, Magistrate Court records show Johnson was recorded accepting a bribe from someone who had been sentenced to community service at the court.
Johnson was booked with malfeasance in office, public bribery, injuring public records and corrupting influence after a sting operation run by the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office and the FBI. Johnson was the head of the court’s Office of Community Service.
According to court records, authorities were contacted March 3 by a man who’d been ordered to serve community service but had received an offer from Johnson to avoid the service. The man reported that Johnson told him that if he gave her $700, he could avoid serving his mandated hours. Magistrate court records do not identify the man and only list him as a “concerned citizen.”
On Thursday, District Attorney Leon Cannizzarro’s office said the case was investigated by the FBI in conjunction with local officials.
The court records said that after the man contacted authorities, they had him set up a time to provide Johnson with the payment after negotiating it down to $600. That meeting occurred March 26, according to court records. Johnson arrived at the exchange with a companion, while the man came with recording devices strapped to his body. Authorities say he and Johnson made the exchange, and she was arrested Thursday. Johnson’s bond was set at $10,000.
Johnson was a regular fixture at the courthouse, where she could be seen chivvying individuals participating in the community service program as they completed work around the building. Often, as a condition of their sentence, or if they are unable to pay a fine, individuals will be assigned community service, said Rob Kazik, the Judicial Administrator at the court.
Kazik said that the community service program was temporarily suspended Friday because of Johnson’s arrest, but he expects it will resume next week. However, the number of daily participants will likely be restricted to six, he said.
The community service program as a whole is being reviewed, and Kazik changes in procedures are likely. The current program requires participants to sign in to receive credit, and that process could be altered. However, Kazik said, he still needs to review the details of the district attorney’s investigation to determine exactly how widespread the problems were, and what might need to be done to address them.
“We are reviewing the whole program,” he said.