Man denies tampering, strangulation charges

Thursday, February 13, 2020
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Brandon D. Johnson - County Detention Facility photo

A man has denied strangling the mother of his child and then trying to get her to change her statements to police.

Brandon Duane Johnson, 38, appeared in custody before District Court Judge Matt Wald last Thursday and denied felony counts of strangulation, a third offense of partner/family member assault and two counts of tampering with witnesses/informants.

Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde asked Wald to leave Johnson’s bail amount at $42,000, calling his criminal history “abysmal” and noting seven prior charges of failure to appear for various court hearings. Johnson is already on probation from drug and burglary convictions in Yellowstone County, according to the Montana Department of Corrections.

Defense attorney Greg Paskell admitted that Johnson currently has a pending felony partner/family member assault charge in Yellowstone County, but lobbied for a bail reduction to at least $25,000.

Wald spoke directly to Johnson when addressing the issue of bail.

“Your record would indicate that you are a flight risk,” said Wald, who also noted he had safety concerns.

Wald did lower the bail amount to $25,000, but ordered that it run consecutively to Yellowstone County’s $35,000 bail, bring Johnson’s total bail to $55,000.

THE CASE

On Jan. 29, at 2:16 p.m., Columbus Police Officer Shane Zachary responded to an apartment on Fourth Street North when someone reported hearing a man say “I’m going to ------- kill you,” according to court documents.

Officer Zachary saw Johnson walking down a stairwell and also saw the victim, who was standing in the doorway of an apartment with a red mark under one eye and red marks on the right side of her neck. The victim pointed at Johnson and told the officer that he had just assaulted her.

When questioned by Officer Zachary, Johnson said the couple had gotten into a verbal altercation, but said that nothing physical had taken place, according to court documents.

The officer noticed that the tops of both of Johnson’s hands appeared to have injuries, which Johnson said occurred when he had tried to light a propane grill. A check of the pickup truck that Johnson said was his came back has having been stolen from Crow Agency. At that point, he was arrested.

The victim told police that she and Johnson have a child together and had been a couple for approximately 12 years, during which time he had been both verbally and physically abusive, according to court documents.

The couple had been living together at the apartment for about two weeks. The victim said when she had come home from running errands on that day, Johnson became aggressive and said he did not believe she had been where she said.

Johnson grabbed her by the hair on the back of her head and forcefully pushed her to the ground. He then grabbed her with both hands around her throat, “causing her difficulty in breathing, impeding the airway,” according to court documents.

She was able to break free and in attempt to intimidate Johnson, the victim grabbed a knife and stuck a door. She then turned her back and walked away from him, but was attacked again when he struck her three times in the back of the head with a closed fist, according to court documents. Johnson left the apartment when she called 911.

He was taken to jail on the Stillwater County charges. Local lawmen also discovered Johnson had six active warrants from Billings Municipal court and three active warrants from the 13th Judicial District Court.

On Feb. 3, in recorded phone calls made from the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, Johnson was trying to get messages to the victim through a third party about changing statements to authorities.

“Someone needs to get

“Someone needs to get through her ------’ head the severity of what she’s doing to me.”

“Someone needs to get into this b----‘s head and tell her if she wants me to be a part of my daughter’s life or me to be there for my daughter ever ------’ again, she needs to drop this,” according to court documents.

In another phone call made the same day to a family member, Johnson said the following:

“Somebody needs to get through to this ------’ b----, dude, and say hey, look how high my bond is, like this is no joke. This is no ------’ joke, man,” according to court documents.

When the family member to whom Johnson was speaking posed the question of if they needed to “get dirty” with the victim, Johnson said the following:

“Oh trust me, I’ve already thought about some ----, man, this ----- wants to play games with me like this, dude, wait ‘til I do get out ‘cause I’m gonna set that ------‘ bitch up and I’m gonna hang her,” according to court documents.