State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, a West Philadelphia Democrat who has been under investigation since winning a special election in March, has been telling people she expects to be charged with a crime this week, according to two sources she told directly.
The sources said Johnson-Harrell expects to be charged by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office after a grand jury investigation and may resign from office. Both sources know the state representative from political and governmental circles, and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A third person, a government employee with knowledge of the matter, confirmed Tuesday that Johnson-Harrell is expected to be charged this week by the Attorney General’s Office.
Shapiro’s office issued a Tuesday evening news release to announce that "criminal charges against a publicly elected state official from Philadelphia” will be revealed at a Wednesday morning news conference in Harrisburg. The charges include “perjury, tampering with public records, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception and contributions of corporations,” the release said.
Johnson-Harrell did not respond to a request for comment. Her lawyer, Kevin Greenberg, declined to comment.
Johnson-Harrell previously served as Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s supervisor for the office’s Victim/Witness Services Unit, starting when Krasner took office in 2018. She resigned in January to run for office.
Johnson-Harrell traveled a bumpy road to the Democratic nomination in the 190th Legislative District. She won the nomination despite being the party establishment’s third choice for the seat, after The Inquirer’s “Clout” column raised questions about whether the first two Democratic contenders lived in the district.
In it, she cited $607,429 in liabilities, including a $465,000 default judgment from a loan secured by the properties where she ran a personal-care home that she closed last year. She has also been the subject of liens for unpaid Philadelphia property taxes.
Johnson-Harrell was trying to save the properties from sheriff’s sale. But Bankruptcy Court records show the case was dismissed in October for her “failure to make plan payments.”
“Clout” reported in September that investigators from Shapiro’s office were showing checks from Johnson-Harrell’s campaign, written to ward leaders for Election Day get-out-the-vote efforts, and asking how they were cashed.
Pete Wilson, the Democratic leader in West Philadelphia’s 6th Ward, said the agents showed him a campaign check made out to his ward’s political action committee and asked if the signature used to cash it was his. It wasn’t.
“Somebody signed my signature,” Wilson said in September. “I know it wasn’t my signature.”
Her victory — with 66.5% of the vote — was assured as soon as the Democratic City Committee nominated her. Roughly 87% of registered voters in her district are Democrats.
Still, Johnson-Harrell’s six-week campaign raised more than $85,000. She lent her campaign $15,000. Building trades unions gave her thousands more, the largest chunk — $10,000 — from Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Reducing gun violence was the dominant campaign theme for Johnson-Harrell, whose father, brother, and 18-year-old son were killed at different times in her life. She established the Charles Foundation, named for her son, to advocate legislation aimed at reducing access to guns.
As a state House member, she is paid $88,610 per year, plus expenses.