Johnson-Harrell to resign House seat Dec. 13 over criminal charges

    State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell speaks at a rally during Gun Violence Awareness Day on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

    Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, the West Philadelphia Democrat who’s been charged with embezzling more than $500,000 from a nonprofit she ran, will leave the state House late next week. 

    In a resignation letter sent to House Speaker Mike Turzai’s office Thursday, Johnson-Harrell said she would step down on Dec. 13.

    Facing embezzlement charges, Pa. Rep. Johnson-Harrell will resign

    Elected just nine months ago, Johnson-Harrell has disputed some of the charges. But according to Attorney General Josh Shapiro, she plans to plead guilty to charges that also include perjury and other offenses.

    “I am choosing to resign to protect my district, to allow for an orderly election for my successor and to focus on my defense to these allegations,” Johnson-Harrell wrote in her resignation letter. “I will survive these charges and will continue my work to end the gun violence in our cities and to otherwise care for the people I have been fortunate to represent.”

    Shapiro’s office launched an investigation into Johnson-Harrell in 2018, before she was an elected official.

    Johnson-Harrell, a gun violence prevention advocate, was elected to fill the vacant 190th House District in March, to replace former Democratic Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown. Brown resigned in late 2018, shortly after being elected to a new term after she was found guilty of bribery.

    After Johnson-Harrell resigns, Turzai will have 10 days to call for a special election to fill the again vacant seat. The election cannot take place until 60 days later.

    Three other special elections to replace House lawmakers who won local offices in the 2019 election also must be scheduled.

    According to House Parliamentarian Clancy Myer, who first started working in the chamber in the late 1970’s, it will be the first time in the last four decades a district will have two special elections in one legislative session.