A former assistant district attorney resigned after applying for the job of the man she was prosecuting, a News4 I-Team investigation found.
Once a star prosecutor, Danielle Nellis submitted her resignation on July 2, not long after District Attorney Glenn Funk took her off the case in question.
Nellis, who repeatedly denied the News4 I-Team’s multiple requests for an interview, said in an email that she did nothing wrong.
James Johnson, the man who she was prosecuting and whose job she applied for once he was fired following his indictment, said he is still unclear why she would make such a move.
“Why would you seek the indictment and then find out later that you applied for the job I held? It raises an eyebrow,” Johnson said.
Johnson was the chief clerk for Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Kelvin Jones until he was indicted on March 28th, 2017, on multiple charges, including aggravated stalking and aggravated criminal trespass.
Johnson said Jones had no choice but to fire him.
“Just that indictment alone could make the public to wonder if I had breached that public trust,” Johnson said.
While Johnson said Judge Jones made it clear his termination was because of the indictment, a spokesman for Jones said he had no intention of keeping Johnson after his two-year term was over.
Johnson was also being prosecuted by one of the DA’s best, Danielle Nellis.
Johnson said he was stunned to find out, when his old job was posted online amid his prosecution, Nellis applied for this job.
“I certainly think it was poor judgment,” Johnson said.
A News4 I-Team investigation found the events following Johnson’s termination happened quickly.
Johnson was indicted on March 28, 2017, and job for the vacancy was posted on April 5. Nellis applied for the job on April 11.
Nellis was prosecuting Johnson at the same time she applied for the job he lost because of the indictment.
Nellis’ former boss, DA Glenn Funk, would not discuss the matter on camera, but his spokesman confirmed that when Funk later learned that she’s applied for the job of the man she was prosecuting, he took her off the case.
Records show on July 2, 2018, she resigned.
On July 3, the charges against Johnson were dismissed and his record was expunged.
“I felt like my character was being assassinated. I feel like my reputation was being assassinated,” Johnson said.
While Nellis refused to do an interview, she sent an email, stating in part that she was, “unaware at the time why Mr. Johnson left the position and had no reason to believe it was due to his pending criminal matters.”
Nellis also wrote that Johnson’s former boss, Judge Jones, was aware of the criminal investigation into him long before the indictment.
But Johnson said Jones told him that as long as he wasn’t indicted, he could keep his job.
Nellis and the DA’s Office confirmed that Funk sent a letter to the Board of Professional Responsibility for an opinion on whether or not it was unethical for Nellis to apply for the job of someone she was prosecuting.
Both Nellis and the DA’s office said that the board found no ethical issues with her actions.
Johnson said that does not give him comfort.
“I can't get in her head. I don't know why she did it," Johnson said.
Johnson has since moved into private practice as a lawyer. Nellis is currently looking for a new job.
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