Kendrick Johnson (5)

I’ve written before about this story, where a black high school football player from Valdosta, the largest city in very rural south Georgia, was found dead wrapped in a mat in his high school’s gym. There are layers and layers of small-town corruption happening here: missing video files, a misleading autopsy, an exhumation.

Johnson’s parents are suing the local authorities and local FBI agent Rick Bell, claiming Bell’s two sons Brian and Branden murdered Johnson, or had something to do with his death, and then had their crimes covered up by sympathetic law enforcement. The DOJ is investigating the local sheriff’s office and the Bells, and has repeatedly asked the courts to block discovery in the civil lawsuit on the premise that this would interfere with the criminal investigation.

Today, CNN reports that the civil court has released some of the details of the DOJ filing, which claims that there are obstruction and witness tampering issues involved. This is the clearest indication yet that the Johnsons have real merit to their case. The circumstantial evidence was already there, but reading the tea leaves here implies real physical or documentary evidence. This could be an effort to Bleak House the entire thing: drawing it out endlessly until somebody runs out of money. But it’s much more likely there’s a noose closing around the local sheriff or the Bells, and the criminal hammer will fall before the civil one does.

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