Carrie Johnson

Carrie Johnson covers the Justice Department for NPR.

She has spent the last decade and a half chronicling legal affairs in the nation's capital and beyond. Johnson worked at the Washington Post from 2000 to 2010, when she closely observed the FBI, the Justice Department and criminal trials of the former leaders of Enron, HealthSouth and Tyco. Earlier in her career, she wrote about courts for the weekly publication Legal Times.

Johnson's work has won awards from the Society for Professional Journalists and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. She has been a finalist for the Loeb award for financial journalism and for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news for team coverage of the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas.

Johnson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Benedictine University in Illinois. She lives in Washington but always is planning her next exotic trip.

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6:07pm

Thu May 14, 2015
It's All Politics

After Baltimore And Ferguson, Major Momentum For Criminal Justice System Reform

Originally published on Sat May 16, 2015 7:46 pm

Demonstrators participated in a March2Justice for criminal justice reform legislation outside the Capitol in April. Lawmakers who are working to on fixes to the justice system say recent unrest is pushing them to act.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Lawmakers working on fixes to the justice system say that unrest in places like Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore is pushing them to act.

"The whole idea of a young man dying in police custody, the confrontations with police, the looting and burning of innocent minority owned businesses," Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said on the Senate floor this month. "The question arises, what can we do?"

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5:07am

Wed May 13, 2015
It's All Politics

Court Throws Out Nun's Sabotage Conviction For Nuclear Site Break-In

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 9:51 pm

Anti-nuclear activists Gregory Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli in Knoxville, Tenn., in 2013.
Linda Davidson The Washington Post/Getty Images

From the moment she was taken into custody in 2012, outside a building that stores enriched uranium in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Sister Megan Rice has argued she has been driven by one thing — a desire to spread a message.

"And we all know that nuclear energy is linked inextricably with nuclear weapons," Rice told a group of activists in remarks captured on YouTube.

Prosecutors accused her of violating the Sabotage Act, intending to hurt the government's ability to wage war or defend itself.

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1:56pm

Tue May 12, 2015
It's All Politics

Reagan Shooter John Hinckley's Lawyers Say He's Ready To Be Free

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 4:34 pm

John Hinckley currently enjoys 17-day visits to his mother's home in Williamsburg, Va., every month. Prosecutors voiced concern over what would happen when his 89-year-old mother dies.
Steve Helber AP

A lawyer for John Hinckley told a federal judge Tuesday that it's time to grant the thwarted presidential assassin the power to leave a psychiatric hospital and live full time with his elderly mother in Virginia.

"Every witness agrees that he's ready and every witness agrees that the risk of danger is decidedly low," lawyer Barry William Levine argued.

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4:30pm

Fri May 8, 2015
It's All Politics

Justice Dept. Hopes Investigation Will Create A 'Stronger' Baltimore

Originally published on Fri May 8, 2015 10:38 pm

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, seen here with Baltimore police Commissioner Anthony Batts, met Tuesday with the city's police officers, faith leaders and the family of Freddie Gray.
Getty Images

The new U.S. attorney general said she watched the scenes of riots on the streets of Baltimore last week, her first day in office as the country's top law enforcement officer.

"I would have to say that my first reaction was profound sadness, it truly was," Loretta Lynch said.

But after meeting with community leaders and clergy Tuesday, and hearing their frustration over the death of a 25-year-old man who suffered a spinal injury in police custody, Lynch said her sadness hardened into resolve.

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4:33pm

Thu May 7, 2015
The Two-Way

FBI Says It Sent Bulletin On Texas Assailant Hours Before Attack

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 6:01 pm

FBI Director James B. Comey takes a question during a news conference in March. Comey says the FBI issued a bulletin to local law enforcement about one of the Garland, Texas, assailants three hours before the attack.
Joshua Roberts Reuters/Landov

Updated at 6 p.m. ET

FBI Director James Comey says the bureau issued a bulletin on one of the two assailants at a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, just three hours before the attack earlier this week.

Comey told reporters Thursday that the FBI had sent an Intel Bulletin to local law enforcement with a photo of Elton Simpson, his license plate number and other information without stating directly that he was heading to Garland.

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4:29pm

Thu May 7, 2015
It's All Politics

New Public-Corruption Chief Vows To Not Shy Away

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 6:16 pm

The U.S. Department of Justice building in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Veteran prosecutor Raymond Hulser has been promoted to lead the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, the unit that goes after corrupt public officials including lawmakers, judges and military contractors.

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7:59am

Sat May 2, 2015
Law

Georgia Settles Case Alleging Assembly-Line Justice For Children

Originally published on Sat May 2, 2015 10:26 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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3:27pm

Thu April 30, 2015
It's All Politics

Can't Get A Job Because Of A Criminal Record? A Lawsuit Is Trying To Change That

Originally published on Thu April 30, 2015 8:19 pm

Tyrone Peake says he's been fired from three jobs because a crime he committed more than 30 years ago is still on his record.
Carrie Johnson NPR

Outside an apartment building on Broad Street, along the county line in Philadelphia, birds outnumber the rush-hour traffic.

"It's nice and quiet compared to other neighborhoods which I lived in," said Tyrone Peake, 52.

In 1981, when he was just 18, Peake was arrested with a friend for trying to steal a car to take a girl home after a long weekend.

"No, we never got the car," Peake said. "We broke the ignition column and then the cops came."

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4:40pm

Fri April 24, 2015
It's All Politics

Young Trafficking Victim's Story On NPR Leads To Senator's Amendment

Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 6:55 pm

"I never thought that my story would have touched somebody so much that they went in front of Congress to present a bill," the young woman, whom NPR is not naming, said of Shaheen. "There's a lot of voices out there that can't tell her thank you."
Evie Stone NPR

Hearing the words of a 24-year-old victim of human trafficking — and her struggle to wipe away her conviction on prostitution charges — inspired New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

That young victim, who was featured in an NPR story in February, endured years of rapes and brutal assaults by pimps who forced her into prostitution.

"I'm not ever going to forget what I've done or what I've gone through. But at the same time, I don't want it thrown in my face every time I'm trying to seek employment," she said. "I don't want to have to explain myself every time."

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2:04pm

Thu April 23, 2015
It's All Politics

Senate Confirms Loretta Lynch As Attorney General

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 2:23 pm

Loretta Lynch testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2015.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

The Senate voted Thursday, 56-43, to approve the nomination of Loretta Lynch to serve as U.S. attorney general, ending a more than five month-long political impasse that had stalled her bid to become the first black woman to lead the Justice Department.

Lynch, 55, grew up in the shadow of the civil rights movement in North Carolina, where her family had preached for generations. Most recently, she prosecuted terrorists, mobsters and white collar criminals as the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, a district that covers 8 million people.

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4:06pm

Wed April 22, 2015
It's All Politics

Man Who Shot Reagan Seeks Release From Mental Hospital

Originally published on Wed April 22, 2015 7:59 pm

John Hinckley Jr. arrives at U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in 2003 to seek five-day, unsupervised visits with his parents at their home in Virginia. His current hearing is the seventh time a court has weighed gradually opening the door to Hinckley's freedom.
Evan Vucci AP

The man who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981 is making a new push for freedom.

John Hinckley Jr. was found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined to a mental institution for shooting the president, Press Secretary James Brady and two law enforcement officers. Now he's asking a federal judge to allow him to live full time with his mother in Virginia.

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3:38pm

Wed April 15, 2015
Law

Former FBI Agent Speaks Out: 'I Was Not Protected'

Originally published on Sun May 3, 2015 8:17 pm

FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Robyn Gritz spent 16 years at the FBI, where she investigated a series of major national security threats. But she says she got crosswise with her supervisors, who pushed her out and yanked her security clearance.

For the first time, she's speaking out about her situation, warning about how the bureau treats women and the effects of a decade of fighting terrorism.

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12:04pm

Wed April 15, 2015
It's All Politics

Congress Says It Will Not Tolerate 'Agents Gone Wild'

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 5:53 pm

"I'm very concerned about the public's respect for law enforcement officers and the safety of those they are designed to protect," House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, seen here in 2013, told NPR. "This is a very important issue to me and one I intend to follow closely."
Carolyn Kaster AP

Update at 2:30 p.m. ET

On Wednesday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz and fellow committee members released a statement expressing "no confidence" in DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.

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4:04am

Wed April 15, 2015
Law

A Decade After Blowing The Whistle On The FBI, Vindication

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 10:00 am

Kobus alerted his managers that a supervisor was allowing favorite employees to take time off for their birthdays, so the government had to pay more for other people at the agency to work overtime. "You know, this is not our money. This is the taxpayers' money, and I want it to be correct," he says.
Courtesy of Robert Kobus

Robert Kobus doesn't fit the stereotype of the disgruntled employee. He worked in administrative jobs at the FBI for 34 years, and he says he's seen the bureau at its best.

"My sister Deborah Kobus was a 9/11 victim, and the FBI treated me so well during that time," he says. "You know they really cared. I had a lot of friends, I know how important it is to have a strong FBI."

His sister died in the World Trade Center's south tower. When he helped walk out the last piece of steel at the site, he proudly wore his FBI jacket.

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7:29am

Sat March 21, 2015
Law

Justice Department Weighs In On Assembly-Line Justice For Children

Originally published on Sun March 22, 2015 1:46 pm

A 12-year-old on trial in the stabbing death of a 9-year-old talks to his lawyer in 2014 in a Michigan circuit court. The Justice Department is targeting a Georgia case in the hopes of making legal representation for juveniles there more effective, but they say the problems occur nationwide.
Chris Clark Landov

The Justice Department for the first time is weighing in on a state court case on whether some courts are depriving juveniles of their rights to a lawyer.

The department filed a statement of interest in a Georgia case that alleges that public defense in four southern counties is so underfunded that low-income juveniles are routinely denied the right to legal representation.

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1:45pm

Wed March 18, 2015
It's All Politics

Attorney General Holder Jokes That Republicans Have 'A New Fondness For Me'

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 6:00 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder has endured a rocky relationship with lawmakers during his tenure. But he's all they have until his successor is confirmed.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder joked Wednesday that given nearly six months of Senate delays in confirming his successor at the Justice Department, "it's almost as if the Republicans in Congress have discovered a new fondness for me."

"I'm feeling love there that I haven't felt for some time. And where was all this affection the last six years?" the attorney general asked, to laughter, in brief remarks at the Center for American Progress in Washington.

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5:07pm

Thu March 12, 2015
The Two-Way

U.S. Attorney General Holder Denounces Police Shootings In Missouri

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 9:38 am

Attorney General Eric Holder denounces the shootings of Ferguson, Mo., officers and announces six pilot cities for a community trust and justice initiative.
Andrew Harnik AP

Attorney General Eric Holder has condemned the unknown assailant who shot two police officers overnight in Ferguson, Mo., as a "punk who was trying to sow discord" and said he hoped the "disgusting and cowardly attack" would not unravel the progress the community is making to restore trust in the police and the municipal courts there.

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2:37pm

Tue March 3, 2015
The Two-Way

Source: Probe Of Ferguson Police Uncovers Racist Comment About Obama

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 9:08 am

Police officers watch protesters as smoke fills the streets of Ferguson, Mo., on Nov. 25, 2014.
Charlie Riedel AP

A federal civil rights investigation of the Ferguson, Mo., police force has concluded that the department violated the Constitution with discriminatory policing practices against African Americans, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the report.

The investigation, the source says, concluded that blacks were disproportionately targeted by the police and the justice system, which has led to a lack of trust in police and courts and to few partnerships for public safety.

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3:22pm

Mon March 2, 2015
The Two-Way

Task Force Calls For Independent Probes Of Police-Involved Shootings

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 6:38 pm

Law enforcement agencies should measure community trust the same way they monitor crime rates. That's among the recommendations of a task force established after police-involved killings of unarmed black people in Ferguson, Mo., in Cleveland and on Staten Island, N.Y.

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4:49pm

Tue February 24, 2015
Law

Little-Known Laws Help Sex Trafficking Victims Clear Criminal Records

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 9:05 am

This woman, who has had her prostitution charge wiped away, says she got the lotus tattoo to cover up the brand of a former pimp. "Once they put their name on me, I was their property," she adds. She says she got the word "persist" tattooed as a reminder to keep moving forward.
Evie Stone NPR

Advocates for women arrested on prostitution charges want the justice system to adopt a different approach. They say instead of being locked up, many prostitutes should actually be considered victims of human trafficking. And they're starting to offer those women a way to clean up the criminal records left behind.

One of them lives in an apartment not far from Dallas. Inside, a 24-year-old woman pushes up her sleeve to show off a tattoo of a lotus flower. The deep purple ink covers up an older mark.

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6:26pm

Thu February 12, 2015
Law

FBI Director Wades Into Contentious Debate Over Policing And Race

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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4:08am

Thu February 5, 2015
Law

Supporters Say Imprisoned Nun Is Being Held In 'Unfair' Conditions

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 9:44 am

Sister Megan Rice ahead of her 2013 trial in Washington, D.C. In 2012, she and fellow anti-nuclear activists successfully broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to draw the world's attention to the danger of nuclear weapons.
Linda Davidson The Washington Post via Getty Images

Megan Rice celebrated her 85th birthday last week — in a high-rise detention center in Brooklyn. The Catholic nun is serving nearly three years in prison for evading security and painting peace slogans on the walls of a nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Rice is far from the only religious figure to run into legal trouble. There's a long tradition of Catholic clergy protesting nuclear weapons, from the Berrigan brothers in the 1980s to the fictional nun Jane Ingalls, featured in the series Orange is the New Black.

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4:22am

Mon January 19, 2015
Environment

New Justice Department Environment Chief Takes Helm Of Gulf Spill Case

Originally published on Mon January 19, 2015 7:37 am

Cruden ranks the Gulf oil spill as one of the most significant environmental disasters of our time. It "deserves ... all of our energy to make sure nothing like this ever happens again," he says.
Gerald Herbert AP

John Cruden served with U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam, taking his law school aptitude test in Saigon and eventually becoming a government lawyer.

Earlier this month, he started a new job running the environment and natural resources division at the Justice Department. For Cruden, 68, the new role means coming home to a place where he worked as a career lawyer for about 20 years.

Cruden has been around long enough to have supervised the Exxon Valdeez spill case, a record-setter. That is, until the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

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5:05am

Wed January 14, 2015
Governing

Tough Attorney General Pick Loretta Lynch Vies For Senate Confirmation

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 7:27 pm

"They expect a certain amount of leniency or mercy from me, because I'm a woman, and if you've ever met my mother you should know that's not even in the cards," Lynch said in 2012. "She's much tougher than I am."
J. Scott Applewhite AP

President Obama's choice to be the next attorney general grew up in a state where her parents fought for the right to vote.

Loretta Lynch is a North Carolina native who hails from a long line of preachers. Her academic talent propelled her into some of the country's elite institutions.

Now Lynch is trying to win Senate confirmation as the top U.S. law enforcement officer, as the first black woman in line to hold that job.

Lynch was born 55 years ago, in Greensboro, N.C., where sit-ins and protests provided a soundtrack to her youth.

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4:36pm

Fri January 9, 2015
Law

First Amendment Arguments Overshadow Sterling Espionage Case

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 4:21 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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ROBET SIEGEL, HOST:

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6:03pm

Mon January 5, 2015
All Tech Considered

Prosecutors Say Tools For Hiding Online Hinder Cybercrime Crackdowns

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 1:30 pm

Using Tor, or The Onion Router, enables users to hide their online activities. Advocates say the network protects the privacy of activists. But prosecutors say it's used extensively by criminals — and is making it harder for law enforcement to do its job.
Daniel Acker Bloomberg via Getty Images

Prosecutors say tools that cloak online identities are complicating their efforts to police all kinds of crime.

Take the case of a former head of cybersecurity for the Department of Health and Human Services, Timothy DeFoggi. Prosecutors say they found graphic images of children on a laptop computer in his home.

DeFoggi once led cybersecurity efforts for HHS, but in this case, the Justice Department says, he used his expertise to hide from the law, along with other users of child porn sites, on a network called Tor.

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12:25pm

Fri January 2, 2015
The Two-Way

Deputy Attorney General Reflects On Controversies, Successes

Originally published on Fri January 2, 2015 6:23 pm

Deputy Attorney General James Cole
J. Scott Applewhite AP

It has been called one of the hardest jobs in the U.S. government.

The deputy attorney general is second in command at the Justice Department, responsible for sensitive prosecutions and monitoring threats from al-Qaida and the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

James Cole, who has had the job for four years — longer than anyone since the 1950s — is leaving soon. He sat down this week to reflect on his tenure.

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5:11am

Tue December 16, 2014
Law

Judge Regrets Harsh Human Toll Of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:08 pm

The shocking death of basketball player Len Bias from a cocaine overdose in 1986 led Congress to pass tough mandatory sentences for drug crimes.
AP

It seems long ago now, but in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, murders and robberies exploded as cocaine and other illegal drugs ravaged American cities.

Then came June 19, 1986, when the overdose of a college athlete sent the nation into shock just days after the NBA draft. Basketball star Len Bias could have been anybody's brother or son.

Congress swiftly responded by passing tough mandatory sentences for drug crimes. Those sentences, still in place, pack federal prisons to this day. More than half of the 219,000 federal prisoners are serving time for drug offenses.

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4:38am

Tue December 16, 2014
Law

From Judges To Inmates, Finding The Human Casualties Of Mandatory Sentencing

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 2:34 pm

NPR's series looks at the human toll of mandatory minimum prison sentences. The White House and the Justice Department have taken the unprecedented step of asking for candidates who might win early release from prison through presidential pardons or commutations in the final years of the Obama presidency.
Dan Henson iStockphoto

The United States spends nearly $7 billion a year to operate a network of federal prisons that house more than 200,000 inmates. About half of them are incarcerated for drug crimes, a legacy of 1980s laws that prosecutors use to target not only kingpins but also low-level couriers and girlfriends. Multiple convictions for small-time offenses under those laws mean thousands of people are locked up for decades, or even the rest of their lives.

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5:11am

Tue December 9, 2014
National Security

As Torture Report's Release Nears, CIA And Opponents Ready Responses

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 12:27 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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