Bill Johnston: Where is Waco Lead Prosecutor Now?

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Showtime’s crime series ‘Waco: The Aftermath’ revolves around the trial that followed the Waco siege by the ATF and the FBI of the Mount Carmel Center, a compound belonging to the religious sect named the Branch Davidians. Following the siege that killed multiple ATF officials and sect members, lead Federal Prosecutor Bill Johnston tries five surviving Branch Davidians, including the one who accepts a plea deal and testifies against other defendants. In reality, Bill played a significant role in the trial, making one curious about his life and current whereabouts. Well, let us share what we know about him!

Who is Bill Johnston?

Bill Johnston was born in Dallas, Texas, as the son of then-career prosecutor Wilson Johnston. He attended Texas A&M University and later Baylor University School of Law. Bill then worked as an associate at a Waco-based law firm named Haley & Davis from 1984 to 1987, primarily focusing on medical malpractice and government defense. At 28, he became the first Federal Prosecutor to serve the Central Texas region, supervising the counter-drug efforts for the United States Attorney along the Texas-Mexico border. Before the Waco trial, Bill served as a Prosecutor on several infamous cases, including the prosecution of serial killer Kenneth McDuff.

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Upon obtaining a warrant for capturing McDuff, Bill cooperated with the authorities on a six-week manhunt for the serial killer. His investigation into McDuff, who was given capital punishment, led him to then-Chairman of the Texas Parole Board, Dr. James Granberry. Bill prosecuted the latter, who pleaded guilty to charges of perjury. As the Assistant US Attorney for the Department of Justice, he prosecuted eleven defendants in the two-month-long Waco trial. Out of the eleven, eight Branch Davidians were convicted on firearms charges, while five were sentenced for aiding and abetting the voluntary manslaughter of federal agents.

In 2001, Bill pleaded guilty to withholding a page of notes related to the prosecution of eleven Branch Davidians. They reportedly included information concerning the FBI’s use of pyrotechnic tear gas on the final day of the 51-day standoff between officials and the Branch Davidians at the Mount Carmel Center. After pleading guilty, Bill was sentenced to probation that lasted two years and 200 hours of community service. In 2002, his time as a Judge Advocate in the United States Army Reserve in III Armored Corps, Fort Hood, Texas, ended.

Bill Johnston is Still Thriving as a Criminal Lawyer Today

After his time as a Federal Prosecutor, Bill Johnston started to practice law privately. In 2001, he started the law firm Johnston & Johnston and was its partner until 2013. From 2014 to 2022, Bill was the principal of The Law Office of William W. Johnston. He was involved in several complex and infamous cases during these two periods. From 2015 to 2018, the Attorney co-represented five women allegedly assaulted sexually by Baylor University football team members. He also collaborated with the US Secret Service and Sao Paulo State Police officials concerning a case against a Brazilian family that “breached a loan agreement and defrauded the [Bank of America] and the guarantor regarding collateral.”

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Moreover, Bill was pivotal in investigating a Baptist preacher, Matt Baker, who reported that his wife killed herself. He discovered information that proved the man murdered his wife and altered the crime scene to establish that the victim died by suicide, leading him to receive a 60-year sentence. Currently, Bill is part of the law firm Johnston & McLean PLLC, which he founded with Calvin G. McLean. He is practicing as a Criminal Defense Lawyer with “experience on the other side,” a reference to his time as a Prosecutor. His firm has offices in the Texan cities of Plano, Houston, and Waco.

Bill focuses on criminal defense, Title IX litigation, white-collar crimes, fraud investigations, unsolved/cold cases, defamation, and privacy. Additionally, he is the co-host of the true-crime podcast ‘True Crime Reporter,’ along with Peabody Award-winning Investigative Reporter Robert Riggs. In September 2022, Bill was recognized as one of the top 100 lawyers in the country in the practice of criminal law by the organization National Trial Lawyers. He also worked as a lecturer, most prominently at Naval Justice School, United States Navy, in Newport, Rhode Island. Meanwhile, Bill has chosen to keep his personal life private.

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