Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Wildwood, New Jersey

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has accepted a disbarment by consent but amended its earlier order to make the sanction retroactive.

The Daily Times reported on the January 2023 order

A former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney who was previously convicted on drug charges in Delaware County and New Jersey was formally disbarred by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Friday.

Jacqueline Gruhler, 43, of the 800 block of Rose Avenue in Morton, voluntarily submitted her resignation and acknowledged that the material facts leading to both convictions were true, according to a resignation statement filed with the Supreme Court Disciplinary Board.

Gruhler was charged in Delaware County with contraband and conspiring with her husband, Mutatie Hakeem Johnson, in March 2020. She pleaded guilty to both counts in February 2021 and was sentenced to six to 23 months at the county jail with two years of probation.

According to an affidavit of probable cause in that case, Gruhler was representing Johnson for possession of a firearm without a license and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division Detective Thomas Scarpato was alerted to an inmate possessing a controlled substance Mar. 13, 2020, according to the affidavit of probable cause for Gruhler’s arrest.

Prison guards had noticed suspicious activity between Gruhler and Johnson during a meeting and later found Johnson in possession of five bundles of synthetic cannabinoids called “K2,” the affidavit says.

Johnson tried to protect his wife and say he had the K2 on him for nine days following his transfer from a New Jersey prison, but Scarpato reviewed prison calls in which the two were planning to hide the contraband among legal documents during a visit. Johnson allegedly directed his wife to cough when she was being patted down because staff would be wary of catching coronavirus.

Once in the visiting room, Gruhler could be seen reaching to her crotch area and then placing an accordion folder between herself and Johnson on a table with a distinct bulge in it, according to the affidavit. Johnson handled some folders then took them with him back toward the cell block, where he was confronted and searched. One of the K2 packages tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine, the affidavit says.

Johnson later pleaded guilty to possession of contraband and was sentenced to two to five years in prison, concurrent to an eight to 20 year sentence he received in the original drug and firearm case.

Gruhler, who spent nine years as an ADA in Philadelphia, had also pleaded guilty in New Jersey’s Cape May County in December 2019 to distributing methamphetamine. A February 2021 disbarment order from the New Jersey Supreme Court Disciplinary Review Board indicated she was arrested in June 2019 for possession of a handgun and possession with intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, among other counts.

That order indicated that Gruhler was with her husband June 24 and 25, and that she was helping Johnson sell methamphetamine in and around a Wildwood, New Jersey motel room.

The pair had checked out of the motel at 11:30 p.m. June 24, but returned about 1:50 a.m., according to the order. The manager called police, who found the room empty with two notes for housekeeping as well as a backpack containing a handgun, heroin and marijuana, the order says. They were arrested after returning to the motel later that morning, and police found cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, nerve pain medication and plastic straws in Gruhler’s purse.

Gruhler said in the letter that she was submitting her resignation to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court because she could not successfully defend herself against pending professional misconduct charges and that she understands she may not apply for reinstatement for at least five years.

(Mike Frisch)


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