Philip Simmons (copy)

Nicole Holland, an aide for former 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson, was sentenced for misusing public funds at the federal courthouse in Columbia on Wednesday. Wade Spees/Staff

A former staffer for 5th Circuit Solicitor was sentenced to three years probation on Tuesday for misusing public funds at the Richland and Kershaw County prosecutor's office. 

The federal sentencing marks the first punishment that has been handed out since The Post and Courier uncovered last year how Nicole Holland and former 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson used public money for personal expenses. 

Holland, the office's former communications director, received probation after she agreed to cooperate with federal law enforcement officials and testify against Johnson. She will also have to pay back $11,164 that she took from the solicitor's office. 

Johnson pleaded guilty last week, ensuring that Holland didn't need to show up in court to tell a jury about how he spent the office's money on tickets for a Panamanian airline and plush hotels in Las Vegas and Chicago. 

But the U.S. Attorneys Office in Columbia said Holland's cooperation was "instrumental" to wringing the guilty plea out of Johnson. 

Holland, for her part, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and mail fraud in federal court in November. 

The Post and Courier sorted through credit card statements that showed Holland spent thousands of dollars on plane flights to Kentucky and an orthodontist bill

Johnson will be sentenced later this year.

Both Johnson and Holland also are facing state charges related to misusing public funds. 

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Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.