Embattled Sen. Bert Johnson wants public to pay for new lawyer

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Two months ago, Bert Johnson won a delay in his trial on charges he put a ghost employee on his state senate payroll to pay off a loan.

On Tuesday Johnson returned to federal court  - and although he makes more than $71,000 a year as a state senator, today we learned that the Highland Park Democrat, not only wants a new lawyer, he wants us to foot his legal bills.

Johnson's former attorney Cyril Hall said three months ago:  "He was dragged into this particular matter by someone who it appears has sustained a conviction and needs a benefit for purposes of sentence. We have a lot of evidence of that, but ultimately we're going to speak to that inside the courtroom.

Now Hall is off the case, telling a federal judge that Johnson and his family wanted a new lawyer.

In a motion filed last week, Hall says he was surprised when Johnson told him he wanted to make a change.

Hall wrote: "Obviously Mr. Johnson and other family members who are attorneys have a plan of action that the undersigned is not privy to."

Hall would be the undersigned. A day later Hall filed another motion telling the judge that he agreed to represent Johnson for free. He added,  "A review of Johnson's financial resources clearly indicates that he cannot retain counsel."

Federal Judge Matthew Leitman granted Hall's motion to withdraw as Johnson's attorney but has not decided whether the taxpayers should pay for his new lawyer. The judge also did not say whether he plans to reschedule Johnson's trial which is due to start Aug. 22.

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