Rick Johnson (pictured above), the former Michigan House speaker and former chair of the now-defunct Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board, pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges after demanding and receiving bribes during his time with the MMLB, which included “thousands of dollars of commercial sex” with a sex worker, according to a federal court filing on September 14, 2023.
According to the sentencing memo, “Johnson demanded and received at least $110,200 in bribes while he was MMLB Chair, including cash payments, a $20,000 ‘loan’ with no repayment terms or demand, flights on private aircraft, and thousands of dollars’ worth of commercial sex with a woman in the adult entertainment industry.”
The memo states that Johnson would provide an unfair advantage on cannabis license applications to those bribing the former chair, including his favorable vote on the application, support throughout the licensing process and “confidential inside information pertaining to the Board’s work and other applicants.” The memo goes on to state Johnson should face at least 71 months in prison and pay a fine equal to the amount he received in bribes. The maximum penalty Johnson could face is a 10-year sentence and a $250,000 fine.
According to the memo, Johnson pleaded guilty alongside three others. The first to plead guilty for the bribery scheme, John Dalaly, received 28 months in federal prison during a hearing on September 14. During his hearing, Dalaly’s attorney told the judge Dalaly had no involvement with the sex worker. Lobbyists Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown also pleaded guilty to the bribery schemes.
Dalaly, Brown and Pierce referred to Johnson as “Batman,” a bat emoji or as “our friend” while discussing the bribe payments to Johnson. The moniker was used to indicate Johnson’s influence as the former speaker, the prosecutors wrote.
“The manner in which the payments were moved through LLCs and disguised demonstrate that everyone, including Johnson, knew that what they were doing was unlawful. Finally, Johnson’s repeated use of a prostitute who was paid to have sex with him on multiple occasions by businessmen seeking his help and licenses from the state is abhorrent behavior. In their totality, Johnson’s criminal acts and his attempt to evade law enforcement are utterly disgraceful and worthy of punishment well above the low-end of the advisory guideline range for a bribery offense,” the prosecutors wrote.
Johnson was sentenced to 4 years, 7 months in prison and two years of supervised release on September 28, 2023.