Former Pa. Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell pleads guilty to theft in negotiated deal

Kristen Johanson
January 23, 2020 - 10:42 am
Movita Johnson-Harrell

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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UPDATED: 12:35 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Former Pennsylvania state Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell has pleaded guilty to eight separate theft and perjury charges in a negotiated deal with prosecutors. 

She will now spend three months in a county jail, and eight and a half months under house arrest, plus two years on probation.

In court, Johnson-Harrell apologized to her friends, family and supporters for bringing them into the political world.

Judge Scott DiClaudio applauded her efforts in attempting to tackle gun violence and said she "did a lot of good in the community" but noted "we all make mistakes."

Johnson-Harrell stepped down as a state representative in December after Attorney General Josh Shapiro accused her stealing $500,000 from her nonprofit, Motivations, Education and Consultation Associates, known as MECA, for cars, clothes and vacations and moving some of it to her political fund.

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Shapiro called the case in December one of "brazen corruption," saying Johnson-Harrell took money that was intended to help people who are mentally ill, poor and fighting addiction. 

As she spent that money on herself, the attorney general says personal care homes for people with serious medical issues operated by MECA and funded by Medicaid and Social Security dollars were forced to close due to squalid, unlivable conditions. 

Court papers say the theft went on for years.

Before being elected to the Pa. House, Democrat Johnson-Harrell served as the victims advocate coordinator under Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

She will begin her sentence in February, first in a county jail and then under house arrest with some allowances for religious and childcare duties.