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.

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.

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