Bill Johnston

Bill Johnston – Attorney at Law

Bill Johnston devoted his career as a federal prosecutor to in effect protect the sheep from the wolves. Today in private practice he specializes in complex fraud cases

He played the key role in launching a nationwide manhunt for notorious serial killer Kenneth Allen McDuff who tortured and murdered countless young women across Texas. Plus, Johnston who has been featured in Texas Monthly spearheaded an investigation into corrupt practices in the Texas parole system that set McDuff and hundreds more convicted criminals like him free on early parole.

During three decades of practice in federal and state courts, Johnston has tried cases in more than two hundred jury trials and handled more than five thousand cases.

Significant Federal Cases

United States v. Branch, et al (The Branch Davidian Cult case).

Two-month long jury trial in San Antonio, Texas.  8 of 11 defendants were convicted of crimes related to the killing of 4 ATF agents and attempted murder of agents of the FBI during the federal raid and stand-off near Waco, Texas.

United States v. Pierson  

Federal mail bombing case included the first federal prosecution in the United States under the Violence Against Women Act.  The defendant was convicted by a federal jury and received a 38-year federal prison sentence.

United States v. Laws

“Car-jacking” resulting in the death of an elderly Texas man. The case involved the first federal jury trial in the United States in which mitochondrial DNA was used in evidence against a defendant. 

FBI lab DNA Branch Chief Mark Wilson suggested the novel use of this sort of non-nuclear DNA in the trial.  The defendant was convicted and received a life sentence in federal prison.

United States v. McDuff  (Kenneth McDuff serial killer case)

Sought and obtained a warrant for serial killer Kenneth McDuff and worked on a 6-week nationwide manhunt for the killer.  McDuff had killed 3 teenagers in Ft. Worth, Texas in the late 1960s and received the death penalty. 

He was released from prison in the 1990s and began to kill again.  Directed investigation into the reasons behind the killer’s release.  The investigation revealed improper dealings by the Chairman of the Texas Parole Board.  Johnston successfully prosecuted the Chairman, Dr. James Granberry.

United States v. Urick and Young

This federal murder-for-hire case centered on an individual named Sammy Leldon Urick, who abducted, tortured, and murdered a man from Waco, Texas.  The investigation revealed that Urick had also been a part of an international espionage network involving two CIA Officers who had been corrupted by Libyan Dictator Muammar Gaddafi. 

These two agents, Frank Terpil and Edmund Wilson, had been assisted by Urick after they provided large quantities of plastic explosives to Libya.  These explosives were later used in international terrorism. The two officers fled.  One is currently in U.S. prison, the other is in Cuba.  Urick was convicted of the offense of foreign travel in aid of murder-for-hire and received a life sentence.  

International Narcotics Investigations

Was one of the few Assistant U.S. Attorneys to work in Mexico on narcotics investigations.  Cases included the investigation of a Mexican attorney who brokered the smuggling of some 20 tons of cocaine from Columbia to Northern Mexico.  The case involved corrupt Mexican federal police officers who off-loaded much of the cocaine.

Federal Case Experience

  • Continuing Criminal Enterprise (federal “kingpin” statute)
  • Murder of federal agents and officers
  • Foreign travel in aid of murder for hire
  • Bombings
  • Tax evasion
  • Drug conspiracies
  • Bank fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud

Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, United States Department of Justice (OCDEFT, WDTX)

Appointed at 30-years of age to supervise federal prosecutors and federal investigations in 94 Texas counties and supervised federal drug prosecutions in Austin, San Antonio, Del Rio, El Paso, Midland, and Waco. 

Supervised several multi-ton cocaine conspiracy investigations and cases.  Prosecuted the nation’s largest methamphetamine conspiracy case at the time. U.S. v. Robinette, et al.  Worked in Monterrey, Mexico on a 20-ton cocaine conspiracy involving a Mexican attorney who brokered Columbian loads.

Private Practice of law in federal and state Courts 2001 to Present

  • Representation of businesses in federal court regarding international contract/fraud matters
  • Intellectual property disputes
  • Civil Rights violations
  • Federal asset forfeitures
  • Title IX violations by Universities
  • Sexual discrimination/abuse by jail officials
  • Investigation of fraud against individuals & businesses and referral of matters for prosecution

Significant Federal Civil Cases in Private Practice

Jane Doe(s) v. Baylor University

From 2015-2018 represented, along with John Clune and Chris Ford of Hutchison, Black, and Cook – Boulder, Colorado, 5 women who had alleged sexual assault by members of the Baylor University football team.  Claims were brought under Title IX.  Each case was settled favorably.

 Bank of America & McClinton v. Atalla

This case involved a wealthy Brazilian family who breached a loan agreement and defrauded the bank and the guarantor regarding collateral.  Traveled to Brazil on 3 occasions to work with U.S. Secret Service and Sao Paulo State Police officials to determine the extent of the fraud.  Used a federal civil suit in the U.S. to gain jurisdiction and pursue fraud.  Favorably settled.

Private Practice in Texas Civil Courts 2001-Present

  • Civil Prosecution of estate fraud and fiduciary misconduct
  • Medical malpractice defense
  • Wrongful death and negligence
  • Contract disputes, disputes regarding estates

Significant Texas Civil Cases

In Re Glossop Estate (2018)

Civil action regarding a dispute involving self-dealing and breach of fiduciary duty by the executor. An investigation by a retired IRS Special Agent working for Johnston revealed misconduct which gave rise to the claim.  Case settled for well in excess of 10 million dollars.

Dulin v. Baker

This action was brought as a wrongful death case to investigate and pursue a suspicious death. Discovered information that proved that a Baptist preacher had murdered his wife and staged the crime scene as a suicide. 

Turned forensic evidence over to District Attorney who prosecuted the case and had the defendant receive a 60-year sentence. (Texas Monthly magazine cover story, March 2008)

Military Service

Johnston is a veteran who served in the United States Army earning the rank of Captain. He served twelve years with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (USAR).

Significant Military cases

Handled, along with Col. Mike Mulligan, U.S. Army investigation and referral of misconduct of 3-Star General (Commander of U.S. Forces for Southwest Asia).  At the time, this General Officer was the highest-ranking officer prosecuted by the U.S. Army since the 1950s. 

The attempted murder case against army soldier who shot a fellow soldier.  The case was tried to Court- Martial panel.  The defendant was convicted.

Handled civil matters for Military Hospital at Ft. Hood, Texas, including malpractice claims.

Special Prosecutor

Served as a “Special Prosecutor” for the State of Texas in Hill County, Texas periodically from 2003-2015. Handled about 200 cases and tried many to juries.  The cases presented included corruption/misconduct cases against County Treasurer and County Commissioner.

Bar Membership

Handled matters and cases in federal courts in Louisiana, Kansas, New Mexico, and all Districts in Texas. Licensed in Texas since November 1982 (age 23) – continuously in “good standing.”  


  • Undergraduate – Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas  
  • Juris Doctor – Baylor University School of Law, Waco, Texas

Post-legal – Military

  • United States Army Officer Basic Course, Ft. Lee, Virginia; Judge Advocate General Course through the JAG School at Charlottesville, Virginia; Continuing Military legal education, III Corps training program, Ft. Hood, Texas
  • Post-legal – Department of Justice
  • Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute, Washington D.C.
  • Federal Grand Jury Practice Institute, Washington D.C.


  • Served as Lecturer – the United States Naval Justice School, Newport, Rhode Island (2008)  
  • Served as an instructor – Complex Litigation Course, Baylor Law School

Personal and Family Background

Law is in his DNA, a native of Dallas, Texas, Johnston’s late father Wilson Johnston, was a legendary prosecutor in the Dallas County District Attorney’s office for a quarter-century. 

Wilson Johnston handled much of the legal (appellate) work on the Jack Ruby case.  Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Mother’s family helped found the City of Dallas in 1842.

Awards and Commendations

Named one of the 20 most “Influential and Interesting” Texans by Texas Monthly magazine

Selected as one of top 5 federal prosecutors in the United States by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association

Named, along with current Texas Governor Greg Abbott, one of “Five Outstanding Young Texans” by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) in 1995.

Special Achievement Award and “Outstanding Performance” rating, United States Department of Justice

Victim Advocate of the Year, United States Department of Justice, Western District of Texas

Recognized in OER (officer efficiency report) rating as being in top 1% of all U. S. Army Captains

Commendation from U.S. Under-Secretary of the Treasury Ronald K. Noble for work on investigation and prosecution of Branch Davidian cult case.

Commendation from Director of Texas Department of Public Safety

Programs and publications regarding work

Have appeared on such programs as: 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, Larry King Live, A&E’s American Justice Files.

Publications regarding work include: 3 Texas Monthly cover stories and 6 Texas Monthly articles; the book Bad Boy from Rosebud chronicles the Kenneth McDuff serial killer case; the book Deadly Little Secrets tells the story of Johnston’s work on the Matt Baker murder case; the article Death in the Desert describes the Sam Urick case. The book, Manhunt, by Peter Maas, tells the story of the rogue CIA officers Terpil and Wilson.