Former Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrel pleads guilty to stealing from charity

Former Pennsylvania state Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell. ( AP PHOTO / JOSE F. MORENO / The Philadelphia Inquirer )

Former Pennsylvania state Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell. ( AP PHOTO / JOSE F. MORENO / The Philadelphia Inquirer )

This story originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.

A former state representative faces three months in the Philadelphia jail after pleading guilty Thursday to charges she took money from a charity she established for the needy and spent it on vacations, clothing and other personal needs.

Former Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell entered the pleas in Philadelphia, more than a month after she resigned in the wake of charges from the state attorney general’s office.

Johnson-Harrell, 53, was also sentenced to 8 1/2 months of house arrest and must repay the nonprofit. She will turn over real estate that will be sold to help pay the restitution.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The organization, Motivations Education and Consultation Associates, aims to help the homeless, seniors, children and people with mental health or substance abuse challenges, among others.

Johnson-Harrell, a west Philadelphia Democrat, won a special election last year for the House seat that had become vacant when her predecessor, Vanessa Lowery Brown, was sentenced to probation on a bribery conviction.

“Movita is an exceptional woman who will serve her sentence, and then return to her mission of advocacy,” her attorney, Jessica Natali, said in a written statement.

She pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges related to campaign and state financial reports and guilty to felony theft and perjury.

This Philadelphia community would have been in a better place had this former public official invested MECA’s money into the people who needed the care she promised,” Attorney General Shapiro said in a statement.

Johnson-Harrell was the first Muslim woman to serve in the state House, campaigning on a platform of ending gun violence, and had worked in the victim and witness services unit of the Philadelphia district attorney’s office.

A judge set her surrender date for Feb. 6, according to the online docket.

A special election to fill her seat is scheduled for Feb. 25.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal