Father sentenced on gun charge in 5-year-old son’s death
Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess handed down a 40-month sentence for 30-year-old Anthony L. Johnson in an Anchorage courtroom. Johnson’s son Christan killed himself on Dec. 5 with a handgun, which prosecutors said was kept in the same drawer as candy at the family’s Russian Jack residence.
Court records show that Johnson, who was convicted of possessing crack cocaine with intent to distribute in 2012, changed his plea in February on federal charges of being a felon in possession of a weapon following the December shooting.
Prosecutors backed down in court Wednesday from the 57-month prison term they originally requested in the case, instead asking simply for a sentence "north of 40" months.
A sentencing memo from the prosecution said Johnson also had several calibers of ammunition in his home and vehicle, as well as a 12-gauge shotgun and two rifles. Additionally, Johnson had falsely claimed in November – the month before the shooting – that he wasn’t a felon when he tried to buy a gun in Mississippi, a lie which led to the purchase being denied.
“Johnson was determined to possess firearms even though he was on clear and recent notice that the law explicitly precluded him from doing so,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Sayers-Fay. “The result was tragic.”
Johnson’s defense sought a sentence of a year and a day in the case, saying his fiancée bought the handgun for home defense after Johnson was kidnapped and assaulted in Mississippi. The other guns, he said, belonged to “a friend who was going through some domestic difficulties” and needed to store them in the short term.
That claim became a point of contention in court Wednesday, frustrating Burgess when he asked Johnson's defense why he wouldn't name the friend he was storing the guns for. His public defender said he had declined to do so for his safety and the safety of his family, if he were to go into prison "a rat."
The defense memo also included letters in support of Johnson from relatives and Christan’s kindergarten teacher at Tyson Elementary School. It concluded with a letter from Johnson himself, taking “full responsibility” for the shooting and asking Burgess for leniency.
“I completed my probation with no problems and worked a job to provide for my family to make sure my kids and [fiancée] lived comfortably,” Johnson wrote. “But whether I’m in prison or free, my punishment will continue for the rest of my life.”
Burgess agreed with both sides that Johnson should spend three years on supervised release after he leaves prison. The judge had previously signed an order requiring that he forfeit the shotgun as well as one of the rifles.
Johnson has 14 days to appeal the sentence. His counsel said they hadn't immediately decided whether to do so, declining further comment.
Daniella Rivera contributed information to this story.
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