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Jurors find man 'not guilty' of 5 felonies after felonious assault, meth case

Cary Ashby • Updated Jun 22, 2018 at 6:00 PM

Defendant Brandon J. Johnson thanked the jurors twice and waved to them after hearing their “not guilty” verdict on five felonies.

“Thank you so much,” he said.

Johnson, 27, was acquitted Thursday of two counts each of aggravated assault and felonious assault and one charge of aggravated possession of methamphetamine in Huron County Common Pleas Court. One count each of aggravated assault and felonious assault carried a deadly weapon specification.

“I was happy with it,” said one of Johnson’s friends, who sat through the trial, which started Tuesday with jury selection. “Mr. (David) Longo did a good defense. The prosecutor came at it hard too.”

Jurors viewed the suspected crime scenes in Willard on Tuesday before opening statements were made and the first witness took the stand Wednesday.

Johnson was accused of being high on meth in connection with a March 22 altercation at a Spring Street, Willard, residence. Willard Police Detective James Gilliam, officers Ryan Gillmor and Adam Strong as well as Johnson’s accuser testified on behalf of the state.

Jurors deliberated for about 90 minutes Thursday.

“To tell you how unusual this case is, the jury wanted to talk to Mr. Johnson after they deliberated. It’s my understanding they wanted to deliver some words of guidance,” Huron County Prosecutor James Joel Sitterly said.

“Because the facts were all over the place, both attorney Longo and I (said it) was hard to assess what the jury’s verdict was going to be,” he added.

Longo, the public defender, said the acquittals were “a bit of a surprise” and called it a very complex case, which had one of the most complicated set of jury questions he has seen in his 30 years of practicing law. The jurors determined that Johnson acted under provocation — a question they were required to answer.

Before the March 22 incident, Johnson’s accuser and his girlfriend broke up.

Longo said the man thought the situation was temporary while the woman believed it was for good. He added the man “flipped out” when he found out his ex-girlfriend was dating Johnson and the man showed up at the Spring Street residence, where he banged on the door, reportedly yelling “you’re mine.” The man testified he “sucker-punched” Johnson in the face once he was allowed to enter the residence.

“That came out of the blue,” Longo told jurors, referring to the man’s testimony.

Longo argued that his client acted out of self-defense “and the defense of a third party,” referring to the girlfriend. 

Sitterly said the victim isn’t “sharp enough” to fabricate his story, which he believed came out genuinely when he took the stand.

The girlfriend notified Johnson that the man had arrived at her Spring Street residence.

“I armed myself. I grabbed a knife,” Longo said, quoting Johnson’s testimony. “He only picked that up as a precaution.”

Police recovered the knife near the door threshold on the landing, where part of the altercation took place.

“The second knife was never recovered,” Sitterly said, noting Johnson at one point had a knife “ready to put into the victim.”

Johnson’s accuser was stabbed between his shoulder and heart. He later had surgery at Mercy Health-Willard Hospital. Attorneys stipulated to those facts at the beginning of the trial.

Sitterly told the jurors there were enough facts for them to find Johnson guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” on the felonious assault charges. The prosecutor also said it’s not appropriate for Johnson to argue he acted in self-defense when he reportedly was high on meth.

“You don’t get the benefit from your own misdeeds,” Sitterly added. “There was no evidence of forced entry at that Spring Street residence … There is no self-defense; there is no defense of others.”

After the stabbing, Johnson reportedly fled west to Front Street, where he was arrested and police discovered the suspected meth. Attorneys said the defendant attempted to get a ride from a woman and he looked “disheveled” as if there had been a struggle, having sustained a bloody nose and various scrapes.

“He (Johnson) knew he was going to get in trouble with this,” Longo said. Quoting his client’s testimony, Longo also told the jury: “I made myself look bad by running away.”

Johnson had been unable to post a $50,000 bond. He wasn’t immediately released from jail after Thursday’s late-afternoon verdict.

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