With the help of former federal judge Walter Kelley, a Virginia Beach real estate developer is hoping to get a federal prosecutor disciplined for allegedly lying in court. Kelley, now a lawyer in private practice, has asked Justice officials to punish the prosecutor.
The case involves North Carolina duck hunting. Developer James E. Johnson Jr. pleaded guilty in 2008 to hunting with the aid of bait – but he claims his punishment was likely enhanced because of false statements by the prosecutor about a similar case before the same judge.
Johnson came up for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle in Raleigh. Considering the appropriate punishment, Boyle tried to recall if he had imposed a no-hunting order in an earlier duck baiting case. According to the transcript, Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Kocher told the judge he had ordered a two-year ban on hunting in the earlier case.
That statement was a lie, Kelley claims in a letter to the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department. Records reflect there was no ban – Judge Boyle agreed to allow the defendant hunting club to remain in operation in the earlier case, part of a deal negotiated with Kocher.
Thinking he had imposed a ban on hunting in the earlier case, Boyle revoked Johnson’s hunting privileges for a year.
Kelley, representing Johnson, requests the Justice Department punish Kocher and the game warden who handled the cases. He also asks the government to move to vacate Johnson’s conviction and those of his fellow hunters.
A spokesman at Kocher’s office said she would have no comment.
By Peter Vieth