By Neal Putman
A man who kidnapped and carjacked a La Mesa teenager with hypodermic needles held to his neck, which he said contained the AIDS virus, was sentenced Nov. 22 to 147 years to life in prison.
“It was the maximum sentence,” said Deputy District Attorney Matthew Carberry.
The complicated sentencing of Thomas Johnson, 40, was imposed by El Cajon Superior Court Judge Evan Kirvin, which added staggering terms because of Johnson’s criminal history as a “third strike” defendant.
Johnson does have AIDS, according to his former attorney who informed the court early in his case after charges were filed involving the March 28, 2016 incident and a 17-year-old student from Grossmont High School.
“I will stab you with these needles that have AIDS,” the junior testified that Johnson told him.
A jury convicted Johnson of kidnapping, carjacking, making a criminal threat and car theft involving the teen. They also convicted him of robbery of an elder, attempted robbery, and reckless evasion of police after the victim escaped.
Branik Brown, now 21, testified in the March trial he was forced to drive Johnson around for 40 minutes until he punched Johnson in the jaw and escaped from his 2000 Ford Ranger truck.
Johnson drove off in his truck and committed other crimes before he crashed into a freeway construction site near University Avenue. The truck caught fire and it was totaled. Johnson was then arrested.
Kirvin ordered Johnson to pay $4,000 in restitution to the victim, who had purchased the vehicle for $3,000, and lost possessions including a laptop.
“He [Branik] is relieved now that this has concluded,” said Carberry.
Johnson has prior convictions for aggravated robbery in 2011, carjacking in 2009, aggravated carjacking in 2006, and attempted robbery in 2004, all in Illinois, said Carberry.
Johnson, whose attorney asked unsuccessfully for a new trial, was given jail credits of 1,530 days.
The trial had been delayed because of concerns over Johnson’s mental competency and he spent some time at a state psychiatric facility until he regained his mental fitness to stand trial.