DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A Michigan lawmaker has appeared in federal court for the first time since being charged with putting a phony employee on his public payroll.

A not-guilty plea was entered Tuesday for Sen. Bert Johnson, a Democrat from Highland Park. The 43-year-old is accused of borrowing $14,000 from a woman and repaying her by putting her on his payroll as a community liaison.

[View a copy of the indictment]

The government says Glynis Thornton was a no-show or “ghost employee” — paid a $23,000 salary in 2014 although she did no work for Johnson.

Thornton has been cooperating with investigators after having pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks to a Detroit Public Schools in a separate corruption case.

Johnson’s attorney, Cyril Hall, denies that Thornton was a ghost employee. He says Johnson will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

“Mr. Johnson was not involved at all with anything that had to do with the school board,” Hall said. “He was dragged into this particular matter by someone who is appears has sustained a conviction and needs a benefit for purposes of sentence.”

Johnson was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond on the condition that he surrender his passport.

If convicted on charges of conspiracy and theft, he faces up to ten years in prison.

[‘Pretty Disappointed About A Raid On My House’ Says State Senator Bert Johnson]

© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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