For Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, sexual violence and assault sadly are things he deals with on a regular basis. But it’s cases like War Machine’s, born Jon Koppenhaver, that boosted his faith in the justice system.
“First and foremost, I think the message is that domestic violence is unacceptable,” Wolfson told MMAjunkie two days after War Machine received a 36-years-to-life sentence for the 2014 sexual assault and beating of ex-girlfriend Christy Mack and her boyfriend. “To any of your readers who are in an abusive situation, I would encourage them to reach out to family and friends, police agencies, women’s shelters, or any other kinds of services so they can get out of an abusive relationship.”
Machine was sentenced Monday after his attorneys staged a last-ditch effort to get another trial. A judge heard his plea for leniency, as well as statements from Mack – real name Christine Mackinday – and the other victim in the case, Corey Thomas. Machine was convicted in March on 29 of 34 counts brought by the district attorney’s office, which included sexual assault, kidnapping and coercion in connection with an August 2014 attack of Mack and Thomas at her home in Las Vegas.
The attack left Mack with broken teeth, a fractured rib and a severely ruptured liver, while Thomas suffered a broken nose, dislocated shoulder, scrapes, bruises, and bite marks.
At the sentence hearing, an emotional Mack spoke of the lingering effects of the attack and feared he would attempt to kill her when released from prison. Koppenhaver will be 71 when he is first eligible for parole.
“The sentencing, it was stiff,” Wolfson said. “I think the result would be different with a person that had no previous history and a person that didn’t act out as much as he did.
“During the proceedings, prior to trial, the judge is the one that sentences you, and during the two years leading up to the trial, he acted out in court in a very aggressive, disrespectful way, and judges are human beings. Although they say they put that aside, it’s hard to put that behavior aside. So when you look at his past with violence, when you look at the amount of violence in the acts themselves, and his attitude, I don’t know that the judge was all that off in delivering such a harsh sentence.”
Machine’s attorneys plan to appeal the decision, a move Wolfson expects but said “I’m confident that the verdicts were just” and added “I think Mr. Koppenhaver received a fair trial.”
The three-month proceeding will be examined by a new TV show, “Sin City Justice,” which debuts tomorrow on Investigation Discovery.
Mack’s past as an adult film actress and her passionate and volatile relationship with Machine were scrutinized by defense attorneys, as was Machine’s abusive past, with one attorney claiming the fighter actually could have been unconscious during the attack and not fully responsible for his actions.
“I think it was a unique approach,” Wolfson said. “But my opinion is the defense expert wasn’t very believable or credible. So I don’t think the jury bought it, (and) I don’t think the judge bought it. It was an interesting angle, but I don’t think it worked.”
Wolfson said his team was prepared for the defense’s efforts to distract from the severity of the crime and also didn’t shy away from Mack’s previous life.
“We owned it,” he said. “We brought it out. We weren’t afraid of it, and we didn’t run away from her otherwise interesting background and choice of lifestyles.
“I think she held up extremely well. She’s a remarkable woman. She’s very strong. She speaks well and is kind of a poster child for women and anyone who are victims of domestic violence. I think she was an exceptional witness, and obviously, the jury agreed.”
Although the spotlight brought by celebrity cases often distorts the process of law, and there were a few oddities that surfaced during the trial, Wolfson said the contrast in court between Machine and Mack brought the facts of the case into sharper focus.
“I liken him to a celebrity,” Wolfson said. “But I don’t think he was a likable celebrity. The amount of violence in his past, and the severity of the assault, and the senseless delivery of such incredible injuries, it’s hard to have sympathy for someone who delivered such a terrible, terrible beating on two people.
“We were aware of the potential defenses that might be presented, whether it be post-traumatic stress disorder, whether it be steroid use, whether it be some brain disorder. We were expecting some or all of that, and that’s why we have a jury system. The jury listened to all of it and rendered the verdict they thought was just.”
Machine told the judge he had found religion in jail and professed he’d gained a better understanding of a self-hatred that caused him to act out. He said he would accept the consequences of his actions and said he would be a role model in the future. Wolfson doesn’t doubt Machine might have changed but said that’s irrelevant in light of his crimes.
“You can’t shoot somebody in the head, and then a day later say sorry,” he said. “Our society doesn’t work that way. So I hope that he’s found some peace with himself, and the next three decades, or however long he serves in prison, he finds some peace within himself. But he deserved the punishment he got.”
Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie