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Judge Charlie Dorsey sentenced Antwan Johnson to life in prison on the murder charge, to be suspended after 25 years.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
Antwan Johnson pleaded guilty to the murder of Gary Lee Williams, Jr. Tuesday. He is is flanked by his attorneys Patrick Kenney, left, and Seth Weston.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
A Roanoke man pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing his former roommate and will serve 30 years in prison.
Antwan Johnson, 36, admitted at a previously unscheduled hearing in Roanoke Circuit Court that he fatally shot Gary Lee Williams Jr. on the morning of April 3, 2012.
At the time of Williams’ death, Johnson, who already carried multiple felony convictions, was living in the basement of Williams’ home in the 100 block of Cherry Hill Circle. Williams’ friends and family members have since said Williams was trying to help rehabilitate Johnson.
Johnson’s plea arrived less that two weeks before he’d been scheduled to go to trial in the case, on June 10.
Through the plea agreement, Judge Charlie Dorsey convicted Johnson of first-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of the crime.
He sentenced Johnson to life in prison on the murder charge, to be suspended after 25 years. Johnson also received a mandatory sentence of five years for using a gun to commit a crime after a prior firearm conviction.
Prosecutors, by the agreement, agreed to dismiss two related felony charges — grand larceny and possession of a firearm — and eight probation revocation proceedings against Johnson.
In her summary of the prosecution’s case, Roanoke Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Sheri Jones said evidence — including a recorded phone conversation involving Johnson — would have indicated that Johnson killed Williams because he’d suspected his friend had double-crossed him by telling Johnson’s wife that Johnson was seeing other women.
Jones said Johnson could be heard on the recording telling a friend that, with respect to Williams, “He’s done” and “It’s a wrap,” which is slang for, “It’s finished.”
Jones also said evidence indicated that after the shooting, Johnson had sold jewelry that had belonged to Williams. Additionally, she said, prisoners held with Johnson would have testified he’d admitted he killed Williams and had shared with them details about the killing that later proved true, including the fact that two guns were used and points about the nature of Williams’ death.
A medical examiner determined that Williams had died from gunshot wounds to the head, neck and torso, Jones said.
This recent conviction represented an escalation in Johnson’s already extensive criminal history — he previously netted eight felony convictions on charges of assault and battery, attempted murder, attempted malicious wounding, firearms offenses and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
“Society can’t adapt to me,” Johnson told The Roanoke Times in a 2003 profile that focused on his legal troubles.
At that time, Johnson stood 5-foot-10, weighed 240 pounds, was capable of bench-pressing 425 pounds and had been accused by a girlfriend of kicking her while she was in her third trimester of pregnancy.
“I can squat 520 pounds,” Johnson told a reporter. “If I’d kicked her on the stomach like she said, she wouldn’t have had no baby.”
Johnson, who appeared at Tuesday’s hearing wearing a black brace on his left lower arm and handcuffs on his wrists, spoke only briefly in a hoarse voice and opted not to make any statement to the court regarding his plea.
Earlier this year, Johnson filed a motion in Roanoke Circuit Court to dismiss the murder charge against him.
In his motion, Johnson claimed he’d been held in segregation with limited contact for months and that the enhanced restrictions placed on him showed bias against him by the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office and amounted to violations of his rights.
At a hearing earlier this year, Dorsey denied that motion.
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