State Senator Bert Johnson pleads guilty, resigns from Senate

A Michigan lawmaker charged with putting a no-show employee on the public payroll has pleaded guilty, resigned from office and faces up to a year in prison.

Sen. Bert Johnson, a Democrat from Highland Park, must repay $23,000 to the state of Michigan. He will be sentenced on Aug. 7.

Sen. Bert Johnson changes mind, pleads guilty to corruption

After pleading guilty Friday to conspiring to steal money, he resigned. He was accused of putting Glynis Thornton on his payroll in order to repay $14,000 in loans from her. Federal investigators say Thornton did no work but collected $23,000.

The feds say Johnson's troubles started in 2013 when he needed money for his son's tuition, his own bills at the University of Detroit-Mercy, and debts to political consultants. Johnson allegedly turned to Glynis Thornton for a $10,000 loan and in 2014, Johnson put Thornton on his Senate payroll.

Thornton cooperated with investigators after getting caught in a separate corruption case involving bribes for a Detroit school principal.

He was supposed to go to trial in a couple weeks and had even rejected a plea deal on Monday. On Thursday, he changed his mind and told the judge he would plead guilty.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider says public officials "cannot treat the people's money as their own."

Just a few hours after leaving federal court, Johnson submitted a one-line resignation to the state Senate: "It is with profound regret that I tender my resignation, effective March 2, 2018."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report