Nearly three years after 8-month-old Gabriel Johnson was reported missing, the boy's mother, Elizabeth Johnson, was not found guilty of kidnapping. However, a jury did find her guilty of unlawful imprisonment and two custodial-interference charges.
The kidnapping charge is the one that Johnson's attorney really fought -- it could have landed Johnson in prison for more than two decades.
-Baby Gabriel Case Gets Even More Bizarre. Actual Mom and Would-be Mom Point Fingers
-Elizabeth Johnson's New Pen-Pal: the Judge Handling Her Kidnapping Case
-San Antonio Babysitter Claims Baby Gabriel Was Drugged and Had "Sad Look on His Face"
Johnson's attorney, Marc Victor -- who's also running as a Libertarian for U.S. Senate, against Jeff Flake and Richard Carmona -- faced a seemingly impossible task in defending his client.
Victor, who didn't call any witnesses during the trial, attempted to explain the situation to the jury in his closing arguments -- yes, Gabriel is still missing. Yes, the jurors probably hate Johnson, and yes, she's a liar.
However, Victor was trying to pound it into the jury's head that they really only needed to decide one thing -- whether Johnson committed the act of kidnapping.
Prosecutors did spend a good amount of time pretty much painting Johnson as a heartless monster, like their repeated references to the text messages Johnson sent claiming that she'd killed Gabriel. Again, Victor wanted to talk kidnapping.
Victor didn't really contest the custodial-interference charges, but offered a few defenses on the kidnapping charge. Since prosecutors don't know what happened to Gabriel, Victor brought up scenarios that he said didn't amount to kidnapping.
Indeed, the jury appeared to agree. The judge explained that the jury could not decide on the kidnapping charge, but did agree to find Johnson guilty of unlawful imprisonment.
The unlawful imprisonment charge she was convicted on is classified as a domestic-violence charge, which means there could be a possibility that Johnson won't have to serve any more jail time, since she's been jailed since early 2010.
Immediately after the verdict was read, the "aggravation phase" began, which can affect the sentence Johnson receives. We'll keep you posted on the details.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.