Prosecutors: Former Michigan Weed Board Chair Bribed With Sex Worker

Rick Johnson chairs the committee as it meets before a capacity crowd in Lansing, Mich., June 26, 2017, at the first open meeting of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Board. (Dale G Young/Detroit News via AP, File)

By Kyle Kaminski

September 15, 2023

A sex worker was allegedly paid at least $2,000 to have sex with former Republican House Speaker Rick Johnson as part of a bribery scheme, new federal court records revealed.

MICHIGAN—A former Republican House speaker who took bribes in exchange for business licenses during his time leading Michigan’s marijuana licensing board also received “thousands of dollars worth of commercial sex” as part of the corruption scheme, federal prosecutors said.

Rick Johnson—who served as Michigan’s House speaker from 2001 through 2004—is set to face up to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to bribery in April. Prosecutors said he accepted at least $110,000 in bribes while he was on the now-defunct state licensing board. 

But more salacious details surfaced this week after a man who bribed Johnson, John Dalaly, was sentenced to more than two years in prison. New court filings allege that one lobbyist paid at least $2,000 for Johnson to have sex with a “woman in the adult entertainment industry.”

The sentencing memorandum also alleges that Johnson demanded and received cash bribes, a $20,000 “loan” with no repayment terms or demand, and several flights on private aircrafts.

“In return, Johnson provided an unfair advantage to bribe payers in the form of his favorable vote on license applications, his help and support throughout the licensing process, and confidential inside information pertaining to the Board’s work and other applicants,” it reads.

Johnson, 70, was chairman of the marijuana board for two years before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer disbanded the entity in 2019. It used to be in charge of approving cannabis business licenses.

Dalaly, 71, had a stake in a cannabis company that was seeking a license. He paid Johnson’s wife over several months for help with the application process, and also said he provided at least $68,200 in cash and other benefits to Johnson—including two private flights to Canada.

On Thursday, US District Judge Jane Beckering sentenced Dalaly to 28 months in prison. During the hearing, his attorney Raymond Cassar said Dalaly had no involvement with the sex worker being provided to Johnson, according to recent reports in the Detroit Free Press.

Besides Johnson, two lobbyists, Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown, have agreed to plead guilty in the scheme. Both lobbyists reportedly bribed Johnson; and Brown voluntarily spoke to federal agents for hours in 2020 before he had a lawyer, defense attorney David Griem said.

Court filings released this week showed the two lobbyists referred to Johnson as “Batman” in text messages. The sentencing memorandum doesn’t specifically say whether one of them paid someone to have sex with Johnson—which would be illegal in Michigan under prostitution laws.

“Public corruption is a poison to our democracy, and we will hold offenders accountable whenever and wherever we find them,” US Attorney Mark Totten said at the sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors reportedly recommended that Johnson face at least 71 months in prison and pay a fine of $110,200. The charge could ultimately lead to a 10-year sentence and a fine of $250,000. Johnson is set to be sentenced on Sept. 28. Pierce and Brown will be sentenced in October.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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