Johnson sentenced to five years

Jessica Johnson has been sentenced to five years in a federal penitentiary for her role in a robbery and high-speed chase that ended with a shot being fired and an RCMP officer injured.

Jessica Johnson has been sentenced to five years in a federal penitentiary for her role in a robbery and high-speed chase that ended with a shot being fired and an RCMP officer injured.

With credit for the time she has already spent in custody, she has 39.5 months left to serve.

Justice Leigh Gower delivered the sentence yesterday afternoon in Yukon Supreme Court.

On the day she was scheduled to go to trial, Johnson, 23, pleaded guilty to four charges including aggravated assault on a police officer and discharging a weapon in an attempt to flee.

Her co-accused, Christopher Cornell, did go to trial and was found guilty on all eight counts, including attempted murder. He is scheduled to be sentenced in the new year.

In court yesterday, Gower said he took into account Johnson’s young age and her lack of a serious criminal record at the time of the chase down the Alaska Highway near Haines Junction.

Johnson has admitted she was part of a robbery at Madley’s General Store in the early morning hours of September 26, 2011.

At that time the store’s custodian, Frank Parent, was hit with bear spray and punched.

Johnson said she was high on drugs at the time and does not remember many of the details.

She was behind the wheel of the dark-coloured SUV as it fled from the store and was pursued by Haines Junction RCMP detachment commander Cpl. Kim MacKellar and deputy conservation officer Shane Oakley, who were in a marked police vehicle.

A high-speed rifle bullet went through the police vehicle’s windshield and a radar machine on the dash.

Shrapnel was embedded in the RCMP officer’s face, eye and shoulder. He would require multiple surgeries after being airlifted to Vancouver.

In court, Johnson acknowledged that, legally, she was a party to the offences though she did not fire the rifle.

Psychological reports on Johnson found that she had post traumatic stress disorder, a personality disorder as well as attention deficit hyper-activity disorder.

She was found to be a low-to-moderate risk to re-offend violently, the court heard.

The same reports found that she is easily influenced, tends to get discouraged easily and suggested a lengthy sentence would diminish the amount of hope she has for the future.

Johnson, who apologized publicly in court earlier this week, seemed genuinely remorseful, the judge said.

Gower also acknowledged her chaotic and traumatic upbringing, which included abuse and drug use.

Johnson began using alcohol at eight years old. By her early teens she was smoking marijuana and by 17 she was addicted to heroine, the court heard. She is a third-generation residential school survivor.

The judge also considered multiple letters of support filed with the court, including one from the Kluane elders council in Burwash Landing. The letter said the council loved and supported Johnson.

At this point she could be seen wiping tears from her eyes.

Gower noted the amount of work and programming Johnson has done while behind bars even though it was not a requirement for her.

He said a five-year sentence meets the need for denunciation but does not crush all of her hope.

The judge said he had significant concerns about Johnson’s relationship with Cornell. In reports completed prior to her sentencing, Johnson says the pair are still together and have been exchanging letters despite a no-contact order.

There have also been suggestions from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre that the two may have had phone contact while Cornell was on trial, the court was told.

Early this week, Gower questioned Johnson in court about the relationship. She told the judge they were not together.

On Thursday, Gower said he certainly hoped that was true.

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