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For those of us versed in the long and sordid history of the Price George's County, Maryland police department, the fall of county executive Jack Johnson is, in the most specific sense, spectacular:


Former Prince George's county executive Jack B. Johnson admitted in federal court Tuesday that he took more than $400,000 in bribes, agreeing to a plea deal that showed he began shaking down developers almost from his first days in office. 

Johnson's plea in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt came on a day when federal prosecutors announced that the county's former housing director and two developers had pleaded guilty in secret proceedings as part of a sweeping corruption investigation that remains active. Those cases show that the probe was in high gear as early as 2006, the same year Johnson sailed to a second term. Johnson, 62, who had asserted his innocence and vowed to fight the charges as recently as March, pleaded guilty to extortion and witness- and evidence-tampering. 

There is no agreement on a specific punishment, but prosecutors said they will seek prison time at a sentencing hearing Sept. 15, and federal guidelines recommend a term of 11 to 13 years. He remains free until sentencing.

Johnson rose, in large measure, by talking tough when it came to reforming the County's routinely abusive police department. But not much has changed. And Johnson has revealed himself to be just as crooked as the officers he once lambasted.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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