A Thurston County jury on Friday acquitted a 29-year-old Lakewood man of raping his ex-girlfriend at her Lacey apartment last year, but convicted him of five other crimes connected to the incident, including kidnapping her and burglarizing her home while armed with a firearm.
Aaron Mercedes Johnson, who has been out of custody during his two-week jury trial before Thurston County Superior Court James Dixon, was handcuffed and taken to jail by deputies after the jury reached its verdict.
Johnson's attorney, Matthew Lapin of Seattle, shrugged and frowned when asked if he was happy with the jury's acquittal of his client on the first-degree rape charge. Lapin said that although Johnson has no prior criminal history, he will likely face a sentencing range of between 16 and 20 years in prison because of the use of firearms in the kidnapping and burglary.
Judge Dixon did not set a sentencing date after the jury announced the verdict, but he advised the attorneys that sentencing must take place within 30 days.
The jury acquitted Johnson of rape, but convicted him of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary, felony harassment, felony stalking and fourth-degree, misdemeanor assault.
The felony harassment and felony stalking charges stem from an incident in June 2012, about a month after his initial arrest on the rape and kidnapping charges, when he was accused of violating the conditions of his bail requiring him to stay away from his ex-girlfriend. His ex-girlfriend spotted him following her in a black BMW on state Route 512 in Pierce County and called 911. Troopers pulled him over and found "a woman's wig, some oversized sunglasses, a pair of gloves and a roll of duct tape."
During the trial, Lapin had argued that the sex between Johnson and his ex-girlfriend that occurred on May 14, 2012, at her College Street apartment was consensual. According to court papers, Johnson waited outside her apartment for her to leave for work May 14, forced her back inside, then put his hand over her mouth, and refused to let her leave. He also brought his handgun to the ex-girlfriend's home, as well as a backpack containing a large knife, zip ties, and several pairs of gloves, according to court papers.
Lapin told the jury that Johnson, who was honorably discharged from the military in 2007 after serving overseas in the Middle East, always carried a firearm because he worked in private security. Johnson also had a concealed-carry permit and it was legal for him to carry the firearm in a holster as he was doing on that day, Lapin said.
Lapin also argued that Johnson did not come to his ex-girlfriend's residence that day to harm or threaten her, but to try and patch things up.
Johnson did not testify in the trial.
However, Johnson's 27-year-old ex-girlfriend testified at trial that she agreed to have sex with Johnson at her College Street apartment, but only because she was in fear for her life. "I didn't feel like I could say no," she testified Monday. She said Johnson had threatened to kill her, them himself, after entering the apartment May 14.
"I said 'OK, that's fine, but you're going to leave the gun out here,'" the ex-girlfriend testified Monday. She further testified that Johnson then held the gun he was carrying in his shoulder-holster out to her, but she refused to take it. She said he then took the "clip" out of the gun, and placed the gun and the clip on the table in the living room before they entered her bedroom to have sex.
Under cross-examination by Lapin, the ex-girlfriend conceded that prior to having sex, Johnson told her repeatedly that he was not going to hurt her.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445