J.J. Johnson, The Public Sociopath of Phoenix, AZ
The strange case of Jameson Johnson, a.k.a. Jimmy Carroll Johnson, J.J. Johnson & James Johnson — fake ex-cop & ex-Marine, real ex-armed robber
I first met the activist and self-styled hero “Jameson Johnson” in Phoenix, AZ, in 2009. A mutual friend had been living abroad, and Johnson had been storing some furniture for him. Now our friend was back in Phoenix, and asked me to help him move the furniture from Johnson’s place to his own.
At that time, Johnson was working as a mitigation specialist for various attorneys. His business was called Southwest Litigation Support, and its clients included Joy Bertrand, who was also his girlfriend. Johnson had access to, and frequently posted on, a listserv that was only supposed to be for attorneys.
While we were moving the stuff from a storage room in Johnson’s and Bertrand’s house, he and our friend chatted. Johnson held forth about local politics, so our friend asked him if he ever considered running for office. Johnson responded, “I can’t. When I was a cop in Philadelphia, I shot and killed a 13-year-old kid. That would come out if I ran.”
“A lot of people wouldn’t care,” our friend said.
“I care,” Johnson said.
I was struck by two things:
1) That Johnson would talk about such a thing in front of someone he had met less than a half-hour ago, and whom he knew to be a journalist, and
2) from his demeanor, I was sure that he was lying, and I said so to our mutual friend, who said Johnson was known for his improbable, and inconsistent, stories about his past.
By the time we had moved the furniture out into our friend’s van, Johnson had told another story about shooting someone, this time as a marine.
A week or so later, on a Saturday, there was a protest march against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which I attended. In the park where the marchers assembled, I happened to be standing near Jameson Johnson. Our proximity was such that he was able to take a close-up photo of me. The earthquake in Haiti had just happened, and I overheard Johnson lecture someone about it, saying, “Let me tell you what’s really going on over there…” Then he said he was flying to Haiti to help out on Tuesday. I was sure this was a fiction, and indeed it was.
Shortly after, I learned that Johnson, who is black, claimed that his father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but told other, widely varying, stories about his childhood.
I was now curious, so I did some checking, and found no record of Johnson’s having been a cop in Philadelphia. I discovered that his father is black, his mother is white, and Johnson was raised by a white family. He was briefly in the Navy — as a cook. He was briefly married, but abandoned his wife when she was pregnant with a daughter he never met. He sometimes claimed to be a cop back then, and kept a nightstick in his car.
In September 2011, Phoenix New Times columnist Stephen Lemons, a friend of Johnson’s, revealed that he was really Jimmy Carroll Johnson, a convicted armed robber who had been in prison during the time he claimed that he had been a marine. He committed armed robbery in Nevada, second-degree robbery in Oregon, and grand theft auto in Idaho. Joy Bertrand had no idea about his real identity, and she broke up with him when she found out. (Since then, Johnson has told women that they broke up because Bertrand was unfaithful to him.)
I wasn’t surprised when Lemons revealed that Johnson, after claiming he was being smeared by law enforcement, and that he had been working undercover in prison and wasn’t really a convict, had refused to answer questions from a Federal judge, and then disappeared off the social grid, including removing his Facebook page.
By November that year, he had a new Facebook page and a new(ish) name. His new Facebook page — which apparently hadn’t been shared with many of his old contacts, like Lemons or activist Dennis Gilman (who has been vocal in his support of Johnson post-scandal, and, like Johnson, is given to name-calling and slander when anyone disagrees with him), though there were a few local attorneys on his new friends’ list — has the handle “mitig8r,” so presumably he was still in business.
And this note he wrote on Facebook showed that his troubles hadn’t silenced his pontifications on Phoenix politics:
by J.J. Johnson
A woman who I respect greatly uses an unusual acronym for a reality check: FIGJAM; Fuck, I’m Great! Just Ask Me!
While many of the people I respect have been occupied with the Occupy Wall Street Movement, I’ve sort of hunkered down on my own self-involved sidelines to watch. I’ve been impressed with the energy and passion that I’ve seen, but I’ve been confused, too. While Randy Parraz, Chad Snow, Tom Ryan and countless dedicated volunteers fought a bloodless coup in LD 18 to depose de facto Arizona Governor Russell Pearce, other folks have chosen to set up shop in parks and yell at cops who are union employees. Wouldn’t it make more sense to go out to Fountain Hills or Paradise Valley and beat on paint buckets in front of the 6000 square foot homes of the 1%? Just a thought. The 7000 or so voters in PV that actually control Arizona don’t care if you stay in a park until your pit hair forms dreadlock. They don’t think of the OWS movement at all. They laugh when the mini-utopias turn into an urban Lord of the Flies situation, with everyone screaming for the conch.
Occupying Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland and Zucotti Park in Manhattan are interesting goals, and attract a lot of attention. What is more important is to occupy the ballot box. The victory in LD 18 was only possible because of a focused convergence of interests. The Koch brothers can throw giants checks into bubbling pots of dirty money, but they ultimately cannot mark a single ballot in Arizona. A real, meaningful direct action is registering a low-efficacy or first time voter, then giving him/her a ride to the polls. If you really want to go for broke, get an entire family registered on the Permanent Early Voter List, then swing by to help them fill the ballots out over dessert. Walk with their children to the mailbox, and send those ballots off. Explain to the children why it is important for them to participate in the democratic process when they reach the age of eligibilty. That is an effective direct action. That is literally a voter’s insurgency. Russell Pearce is headed for the unemployment line because activists earnest in their convictions figured out how to show the average denizen of a red district that it was in their best interest to depose the throne. Ma and Pa Lunchbucket did not vote for Chad Snow’s snazzy suits; they voted to oust King Pearce because his values no longer comported with their own. As the author of SB1070, Pearce is still dangerous. I have no doubt he will again rear his head where and when he can hurt the people of Arizona the most.
Perhaps the message that is better digested than Occupy Whatever is a simple message to elected officials: You Are Next. Should you choose to ignore the will of the electorate, we will replace you with someone who does. Stop scaring old people. Start educating the young. Provide a responsible safety net for those amongst us who cannot care for themselves. Focus on jobs. Stop trying to figure out a devious way around Roe vs. Wade, and stop blaming brown people for all of Arizona’s ills. Trim your own palm trees, while you are at it. Oh, and Governor Brewer? We really don’t want you to spend $585 million dollars on unneeded private prison beds in the face of falling incarceration. We would like you to fully fund AHCCCS organ transplants. We well understand that that Corrections Corporation of America is your single largest donor, and we don’t care. Don’t do it. If you do, we’ll punch you in the ballot box too.
Fuck, I’m great. Just ask me.
I emailed Johnson via Facebook and asked him if he’d consent to be interviewed. He immediately blocked me from contacting him or viewing his page, but not before I had gotten screen shots. His chosen quote was resonant, considering that he delights in war stories, but has no experience of war:
By September 2013, Johnson had some new yarns along with his old mix of intelligence and stupidity — or is it insanity?
If you had gone to a new city to reinvent yourself and leave a criminal past behind, would you constantly call attention to yourself by becoming a public figure and telling absurd, Walter Mitty-esque stories about yourself that cast you as a hybrid of James Bond and the hero of Die Hard? Johnson still couldn’t seem to stop himself.
Johnson now claimed to have been a Navy rescue swimmer, to be a cancer survivor, and to have delivered a baby in a supermarket checkout line using only a pocket knife. His profile on a dating site contained this stock photo, which he claimed was of him (note the caption):
He claimed he was still doing mitigation work. I’m not sure what attorneys — if any — are even still speaking to him. None of the ones we know in common will admit to it. I obtained the invitation list for his birthday party, and a number of attorneys were on that, but so was former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who I doubt was there, so it was probably more of a wish list. I contacted the attorneys on the list to see if any would admit to still hiring Johnson to do investigative work for them. None did.
When I contacted Johnson for this story, he responded, in an email which gave his name as James Johnson: “Should you make any sort of public disclosure of private facts, all legal remedies will be exhausted. You may think you have accurate information about past events, and you do not. Should you persist in engaging in libelous behavior, I will bring the full force of the courts to bear on you.” When I invited him to sue if he thought he had a case, he wrote: “I’m not just talking a law suit. I’ll have you arrested.”
Naturally, I invited him to have me arrested if he thought I had done anything illegal. He then threatened to spread slanders about me. Since people have been doing that for the three decades I’ve been a journalist, I wasn’t concerned, and I told him I was always open to interviewing him if he wanted to tell his side of the story. He responded with some name-calling, and I didn’t hear from him again.
But I heard from others.
A woman whom Johnson had met on a dating site wrote me the following:
I thought this was a funny/disturbing story and thought you’d appreciate it.
A few weeks ago I decided to venture into the world of online dating. I registered for OKCupid and wrote a fairly vanilla profile. I was immediately messaged by a fellow whose profile was “Tall, Dark, and Complex”.
The profile read that he was a former Navy Rescue swimmer and that he had a passion for rescuing animals. He seemed likable enough, so after several texts and hours of phone conversations, I met him for a drink. “JJ” was quite nice in person — seemed to also know several of the patrons in the bar. One thing that I did find disconcerting was his outlandish stories. The more he spoke, it seemed the more his stories bordered on the absurd. Still a bit unsure about what he did for a living, I decided to do a Google search on him when I came upon your blog about him and the articles Stephen Lemons wrote in the New Times. Far be it from me to vilify anyone without proper cause, I immediately sent him the link and asked him for a comment. His answers were vague and he never once accepted onus for his omissions. I went back over the article and read the comments; surely this man has paid his debt to society and is doing good; do not judge lest ye be judged.
I met him for another drink another night, but this time was much more aware of his stories. Over the course of several hours I learned that he helped give a woman birth in the middle of the checkout line in a grocery store and when it was obvious the baby’s head was stuck, he reached for his trusty pocket knife and completed a quick episiotomy. Granted, as a trained paramedic and Navy Rescue swimmer, he was sure to have been schooled in the basics of labor and deliver.
Okay, far fetched, but could be believable. Unfortunately, that story could not be verified.
A drink later and I short conversation about the Golden Girls led to him saying that he saw Betty White at a USO show in Somalia. Now I actually had something that I could research. And research I did.
The only information I could pull up was that Betty White stopped by the USO Center in Illinois in August, 2012. In fact, my research showed that there has never been a USO show in Somalia.
My bullshit meter was off the charts, so I began thinking of creative ways to duck out of dating him. I thought about showing up at his house with a carload of clothes and expressing my eternal love for him and that I was moving in, but with my luck he would have accepted me with open arms.
So I did what any normal person would do — I called him out on his shit.Once again, rather than owning up to his tall tales, he lashed out and blamed his horrific childhood. He told me I lived in a glass house and was throwing stones.
My last message to him was that at least my house was honest.I went back on his OKCupid profile as I remembered a picture of him in his Navy Rescue gear. A quick Google image served proved that it was a stock photo from the Navy website.
There is an old saying, “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned,” but this is so much more than that. This is about a man, who despite has been called out on his lies numerous times, continues to do so.
Truth be told, I teach English research at a community college and it is my nature to verify. I consider myself an educated, intelligent woman, and I was almost duped by this degenerate.
JJ, Jameson, Jimmy — whatever he calls himself — is just a narcissistic ex-con that finds comfort in creating wild stories to inflate his self-esteem.
What I find the most deplorable is that, after telling him that I was a breast cancer survivor, he told me he had testicular cancer.
I felt that I needed to tell you my story because you’ve have met him and understand my dismay.
Do what you wish with the information. He’s back on Facebook under the name JJ Johnson (Deux) — I wonder if that could mean that this is his second personality? I reported him to OKCupid, so I’m not sure how long that profile will be up, but it is worth taking a look.
When Johnson found out I was working on this story, he took down his OKCupid profile, but not before I got these screenshots:
I also obtained a screenshot of his next Facebook identity, in which he threatened to punch someone in the kidney:
A former friend of Johnson’s told me: “His current public page was wiped mostly clean overnight as the pressure mounted from his new flock of followers. Who, by the way, are in a full rage that he deceived them. There’s a classic quote on this other image — the context is that he posts selfies on a regular basis to the admiring ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of women who follow him. He’s extremely vocal in discussions about the military and always strikes the tone of ‘I was there, you weren’t.’ I’ve seen him and his gang of cronies attack people on public forums with a level of arrogance. The stories about his past are wildly unbelievable — everyone has a wildly different story.”
The same source told me that he is now attempting to reinvent himself as a photographer (with a Facebook page called Intrinsic Imagery), because the work for lawyers dried up after another scandal:
“He continued his video work for attorneys — no idea how he got paid following the incidents you covered in other stories. Apparently he would create packages of plaintiff’s lives and include images of babies etc that weren’t the plaintiff…Just searched up on Google.”
Johnson has recently (summer 2015) compared himself to Adrian Peterson. On September 15, he wrote:
I can well remember being sent out to cut my own switch. The long walk outside to select the implement of my abuse was the part that sticks with me to this day.
I can well remember blood running down my legs into my socks. You can still see those scars on my bare behind. There are other scars, but not as obvious.
Not only did those daily beatings deny me childhood… they denied me fatherhood too. It did not make me the man I am; it made me a shell of the man I could have been.
When he says he was “denied fatherhood,” he doesn’t clarify that he abandoned his unborn daughter.
One of Johnson’s society of former friends told me: “I met him through friends (all liberals) — I immediately noticed he enjoyed friending people on Facebook and then would gleefully “kick them off the island” if he was outfoxed in a debate. Hot button topics were AZ politics, race, gun safety, motorcycling and his military “brothers.” He and a pack of his followers would surround and strike the people who had dissenting opinions… All to the squealing glee of the other pack members.
“I tired of the hyperbolic rhetoric and stepped away. I shared probably a dozen friends with him — all virtual — and they continued to fawn over his opinions, his near-daily selfies and his alleged sexual prowess. When some of us would compare notes, we’d note inconsistencies in his stories — it was chalked up to his past — and all was forgiven once he started posting pictures of his rescue dogs (which is admirable, I’ll give him that). I always worried that he was a Pied Piper — now I wonder what his motive was.”
Most recently, he has been frequenting Songbird Coffee and Tea House in downtown Phoenix, where last month he was heard telling a woman that he worked on an American Indian Reservation as a schoolteacher.