Jury quickly convicts felon in bed-sheet escape

SHANE JOHNSON: Went to Mexico with wife after county jail breakout in 2008

A jury needed just 30 minutes of deliberation Tuesday to convict a man in the only successful escape from Mesa County Jail.

“See you in a few minutes,” an attorney in the case said, walking to a fourth-floor elevator about 5 p.m., at the end of closing arguments in the trial of Shane Johnson.

Johnson, 42, was found guilty on a lone count of escape, for which he could be sentenced to 48 years in prison. The former Clifton resident already is serving a 105-year sentence related to a string of burglaries in 2006. Under state law, the sentences will have to be served consecutive to one another.

Johnson will be sentenced Sept. 16.

In two days, Johnson’s attorney, Steve Colvin, asked no questions of the prosecution’s 10 witnesses, presented no defense and did not give a closing argument to the jury.

Johnson, dressed in a red jail jumpsuit in an indication he is being held in maximum security, spent most of Tuesday’s testimony writing extensively on a legal pad, occasionally turning to grin at his mother and grandmother, who were seated several rows behind the defense.

The trial was highlighted by video-surveillance footage of Johnson using bed sheets to shimmy down the walls of the Mesa County Jail on the night of Sept. 9, 2008.

Johnson’s own words Tuesday bolstered an already strong case for prosecutors. In a phone call from the jail made Friday and recorded by authorities, Johnson was overheard suggesting to his mother his best chance at freedom may be on appeal of his convictions. The recording was played for the jury.

“This time I’m walking out of the front door of this mother (expletive),” Johnson says, adding that meeting the goal would “take a while.”

The recording also included Johnson relating conversations he said he had with other inmates about the escape.

Johnson’s wife, Marilynne, took the witness stand Tuesday and told jurors about waiting in a car for Johnson on the night of Sept. 9, 2008, with instructions he could be out anytime between 11:30 p.m. and 3 a.m. They drove to Las Vegas before heading to the Baja region of Mexico, where husband and wife were arrested in January 2009. Shane Johnson was returned to the United States by the FBI in September 2010.

“I don’t want to be here today ... I don’t want to see him convicted,” Marilynne Johnson told the jury.

She is serving a six-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit escape.

Marilynne Johnson testified that her husband first confided the plot during a visit with her husband at the jail on Sept. 7, 2008, two days prior. When asked how he’d accomplish it, he didn’t delve into specifics, she testified.

“He said, ‘I’ve always known I could walk out anytime I wanted to,’” said Marilynne Johnson, adding her husband said, “I’ll be leaving through the back door.”


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