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Feds seized records, phone of former Michigan House leader

Rick Johnson in 2019
Rick Johnson in 2019

Johnson is a Republican from Osceola County who served six years in the Legislature and is a former chairman of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board

A former leader of the Michigan House had his phone seized as part of a federal investigation that involved grand jury subpoenas, search warrants and bank records, according to court documents.

The details were disclosed in a lawsuit against Rick Johnson and his wife, Janice, over fees charged by the Grand Rapids law firm Secrest Wardle.

The firm sued the Johnsons in 2021, saying they had failed to pay $7,500 for legal work performed in the fall of 2020 in connection with the case “United States v. Johnson.”

Johnson, a Republican from Osceola County, served six years in the state Legislature, including four as House speaker. His term ended in 2005 and he subsequently became a lobbyist. He was chairman of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board for two years ending in spring 2019. The board reviewed and approved applications to grow and sell marijuana. The federal investigation was first reported by The Detroit News, which said the probe is related to Johnson’s time at the marijuana board.

Rick Johnson has not been charged with a crime. He didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment Thursday.

The lawsuit filed by Secrest Wardle included detailed billings by the firm. They referred to “receipt and review of substantial documents produced by Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in response to grand jury subpoena.”

Others entries referred to the "government’s retention" of a phone and computer equipment and how they could be returned to the Johnsons. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher O'Connor was mentioned as “Mr. O'Connor.”

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Grand Rapids declined to comment.

The lawsuit over legal fees was settled, according to court records. The Johnson's former attorney, Christopher Cooke, declined to comment.