CHEYENNE – A local man was acquitted Thursday afternoon of two charges of assaulting his pregnant girlfriend, but convicted of taking her child to Colorado.
Mijito Johnson was originally charged with two counts of aggravated assault and battery against a pregnant woman and one count of interference with custody. The jury found him guilty of the latter charge after a three-day trial in Laramie County District Court.
The jury deliberated for about two hours before returning the verdict. Johnson now faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
According to court documents, Johnson and Victoria Marks, his girlfriend, got into an argument over a carseat, and during the argument, Johnson was accused of assaulting Marks and taking her child. When officers arrived on scene, they noted blood on Marks’ head from the alleged altercation and bruises on Marks, which she said was from an assault the night before.
An Amber Alert was issued for the 1-year-old child across Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Johnson was later found at his brother’s house in Aurora, Colorado, on April 11 with the child.
However, since the statements Marks made to law enforcement, Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove said Marks was uncooperative with her office. She said Marks had changed her story from her initial statements to law enforcement to now say the assault didn’t happen and Johnson had permission to take her child.
But Manlove said there is no paternity test or name on the child’s birth certificate to prove the child is Johnson’s.
During the seven months before the trial, Marks and Johnson talked by phone almost 300 times, and Marks was sending Johnson money, Manlove said during her closing argument. Manlove said Johnson and Marks had known each other their whole lives, so who would know better how to manipulate Marks to change her story than Johnson?
Manlove said Johnson held his pregnant girlfriend against a wall, and implied she got the injury on her back when she was likely shoved against the thermostat, she said during her closing argument. She also pointed out scuff marks on the wall that officers photographed at the scene.
But during her testimony, Marks said the scuffs on the wall and the marks on her back were from a sexual encounter with Johnson and not from an assault.
When Johnson took the witness stand, Manlove said he tried to take control of the courtroom and start asking her questions. If that’s how he acts in a courtroom, how would he act with an intimate partner, she asked.
She also told the jury to consider Marks’ motivation with her testimony. Marks said she wants things to go back to normal. When Marks first reported the crime, she didn’t mention Johnson’s name. Manlove said even when Marks was distraught, she was trying to protect him.
Defense attorney Ronald Pretty said the law in Wyoming hasn’t caught up with the times. He said people have children and live together out of wedlock nowadays, and there is nothing in Wyoming law that states a father doesn’t have privileges related to his child.
During the trial, Marks and Johnson both said the infant child was his, although when Marks made the original report to police, she said the infant wasn’t his child.
Pretty asked the jury to consider what Marks said when she was under distress versus what she said under oath.
Johnson will be sentenced at a later date, once a presentence investigation report is completed.