Bigamy, Forgery, Lies: Accused Colonel’s Epic Flameout
Once, Col. James H. Johnson was an honor graduate of West Point, on his way to a storied career capped by his command of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. While leading the brigade, he had an affair with an Iraqi Kurdish woman that cost him his command, his career, and his honor.
Next week, Johnson will face a court-martial in Germany. He pleads not guilty to a host of charges ranging from bigamy to making false statements to financial misconduct. He is one of the most senior officers to be charged with misconduct during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
It all started in 2005, when Johnson, a married man, met a woman in northern Iraq — also married — while in battalion command. Allegedly, to win her over he used thousands of dollars in government money over the years to pay for a variety of favors for her family, and falsified receipts to cover his tracks, as Nancy Montgomery recounts in Stars and Stripes.
After the 173rd deployed to Afghanistan in late 2009, Johnson assured the public that he was spending his brigade’s wartime reconstruction cash in a more transparent way than ever before. But according to Johnson’s charge sheet, he was diverting some of it to his paramour’s family. He filed an invoice for nearly $60,000 to pay her father for services ostensibly rendered on Forward Operating Base Shenk. According to the charge sheet, “the deliverables were not produced nor received as required by the contract, and was then known by the said Colonel James H. Johnson to be false and fraudulent.”