Reading some of the threats Braxton Johnson made against his ex and a relative made Judge Timothy Day’s “blood run cold.”
Three months after Johnson was arrested for telling his partner he would skin her alive and kill her, the 23-year-old pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault and felony intimidating a witness. He was sentenced Tuesday.
“These are some of the most chilling threats that anyone would ever want to read, and coupled with your previous violent actions you can see why [the victim] or anyone would just be dramatically impacted by that,” Day told Johnson during his video sentencing Tuesday in Teton County District Court. “She has nightmares and has a tremendous amount of anxiety, and it affects her in every part of her life. It’s not something that’s going to go away for her overnight, if at all.”
Day said the plea agreement offered by the state was unusually lenient, given Johnson’s violent criminal record when he was a minor.
By Johnson pleading guilty to domestic assault and intimidation, the prosecutor dropped one felony intimidation count and two counts of possession of a controlled substance, marijuana and THC.
“Braxton, I have to say I am really surprised that in light of what happened, the two victims are in support of this agreement and that the prosecutor is recommending this,” Day said.
In emotional testimony, Johnson told Day that the substance abuse and violence prevention classes he’s taking are helping.
“I take the classes that I’m doing now to heart, and even though it’s difficult to relive those couple nights over again every week, it is benefiting me to see the damage that I did,” he said. “That is not a life I want to lead. I am going to do my best. I am trying and doing everything I can to prove to you that I want to fix this and make amends to the people I hurt.”
Johnson’s attorney, Elisabeth Trefonas, asked the court for a sentence of probation because Johnson already served 91 days in the Teton County Jail.
“It’s a significant amount of time in custody,” she said, referring to Johnson's time served for the misdemeanor count. “There is not an additional benefit or rehabilitative reason to be in jail any longer. It would simply be to punish him.”
Teton County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Clark Allan told the court if Johnson follows the rules on intensive supervised probation he thinks Johnson will be successful.
Allan said the victims in the case agreed to the plea deal. Neither victim testified at the sentencing.
“You owe [the victims] a tremendous amount of gratitude,” Day said.
Day said he accepted the plea agreement for three reasons.
“One, the victims are in support of this,” Day said. “Two, because you told me you are going to change for the better, and three, I want you to have every incentive to do everything necessary to make sure this never happens again.”
Day sentenced Johnson to 180 days in jail with credit for 91 days served. The remainder of the sentence will be suspended as long as Johnson does well on probation.