Judge's secretary stole for Disney trip, bought automobile
By Billy Davis
A Batesville attorney’s secretary who was sentenced last November for forging the signature of a deputy chancery clerk was sentenced again this week, this time for embezzling from her employer.
Samantha Johnson on Wednesday pleaded guilty to stealing approximately $277,000 from Dennis Baker, a now-retired chancery court judge.
Circuit Judge Jimmy McClure sentenced Johnson, a habitual offender, to 10 years in state prison, which will run concurrently with the 10-year sentence McClure handed down last year.
“She will serve every day of that 10 years,” said Assistant District Attorney Jay Hale, pointing to Johnson’s prior felony convictions for forgery in 1999 and embezzlement in 2003.
Batesville police launched a criminal investigation into missing funds at Baker’s law firm, and that initial investigation uncovered other criminal activity, said Hale.
BPD Detective Jeremiah Brown said Johnson, who is 40, stole from an escrow account operated by the law firm. “It was everybody’s money she stole from,” he said.
Brown said the police investigation uncovered that Johnson used the law office account to pay off the mortgage on her mother’s mobile home; buy her sister a mobile home; purchase an automobile for her daughter; and take vacation trips, including a trip to Walt Disney World.
The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office oversaw prosecution of the forgery allegations while the District Attorney’s Office prosecuted Johnson on the embezzlement count.
Last November a circuit jury heard evidence about the chancery court forgery, and jurors convicted Johnson after fifteen minutes of deliberating.
This week Johnson entered a guilty plea instead of asking for a trial. She pleaded guilty to three more counts of forgery and the single count of embezzlement according to Hale.
Johnson was represented by public defender David Walker during trial and at the plea hearing.