Jail escapee receives 105-year sentence
Even without habitual felony charges, a Mesa County man convicted by a jury of 24 felony counts was sentenced by a judge Monday to 105 years in prison.
Shane Johnson, 42, who previously escaped Mesa County Jail by shimmying down the building’s wall on bedsheets, was sentenced Monday on his 2006 convictions. Johnson was about a week away from a possible life sentence before he fled the jail for Mexico in September 2008.
Especially sensitive to security in the wake of the county’s only inmate jailbreak, the courtroom used Monday by Johnson and lawyers on both sides, was closed to members of the public. The proceeding was broadcast by a live feed in a separate courtroom. Family and victims of Johnson were allowed to enter the courtroom containing Johnson one at a time to give testimony.
Over the course of 41 days in the summer of 2006, Johnson raided a number of local homes, stealing rifles, cameras, credit cards, vehicles (often crashing them) and “anything he could get his hands on,” said Mesa County District Court prosecutor Jeremy Savage. Several times after being arrested, Johnson was out on bond committing more crimes before police could catch up to him.
Victim Gary Linsacum was somewhat satisfied with Johnson’s sentence, handed down by Mesa County District Court Judge Richard Gurley.
Linsacum and his wife were at their home when Johnson crept under their cracked garage door, rifled through a freezer, stole a handful of car keys and took off with their Nissan Altima.
Police caught up to Johnson days later in a hotel in Elko, Nev., where he and two women were staying with money from stolen credit cards. As police entered the hotel room, Johnson fled through a window, jumped into the Nissan and led officers on a high-speed chase, later crashing the car. He was found by police hiding in the desert.
Before the Linsacums got their car back, Johnson had been arrested and bonded out of jail, continuing to break into homes and steal cars.
“This person has no regard for the law,” Linsacum said during the hearing Monday. “I don’t think this community or any community would benefit from having him on the streets.”
Judge Gurley agreed, but he did not accept prosecution’s attempt to levy habitual criminal charges against Johnson. Prosecutors can seek habitual criminal charges against those with three felonies on their record, a procedure that triples a sentence.
Johnson had two prior felonies, but his first one dates back to 1994, and the felonies must be within 10 years to apply for the enhanced sentence.
Savage argued that a history of Johnson’s burglary charges could apply to another section of the law that allows habitual criminal charges with any time frame if all are burglary-related.
Prosecutors have held off on filing escape charges on Johnson because they would have been moot if habitual charges stuck at Monday’s sentencing. Savage said the Mesa County District Attorney Office now intends to file escape charges against Johnson.