By Neal Putnam
A jury found a man guilty of kidnapping and carjacking a La Mesa teenager, who testified that the man put hypodermic needles to his neck, saying they contained the AIDS virus.
The jury also found Thomas Johnson, 39, guilty of car theft and making a criminal threat to a then-17-year-old junior from Grossmont High School on March 28, 2016.
In an earlier proceeding, Johnson’s attorney said in court that Johnson did have AIDS.
Sentencing was set for June 7 by El Cajon Superior Court Judge Evan Kirvin.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Carberry said the judge reviewed Johnson’s four prior felonies from Illinois and determined they were valid.
The ruling means that Johnson could get 25 years to life in state prison. Court records say one of the prior convictions is aggravated robbery from 1998 when Johnson was 19 years old in Cook County, Illinois.
The jury also found Johnson guilty of reckless evasion from police, attempted robbery and robbery to other victims.
The student testified a man approached him outside a restaurant on Parkway Drive in La Mesa and initially asked for a ride. The student said he didn’t want to give him a ride, but Johnson became aggressive and held some needles somewhat close to his neck.
The teen testified he was scared after Johnson told him, “I will stab you with these needles that have AIDS.”
He further testified that he was forced to drive Johnson around in a 40-minute ordeal and Johnson kept changing directions as to where he wanted to go.
He said he punched Johnson in the jaw and escaped from his 2000 Ford Ranger truck. Johnson drove off with his truck, but it was wrecked after he evaded police following other crimes.
The trial was delayed because of concerns over Johnson’s mental competency and he spent time at a state psychiatric facility until he regained his mental competency.
Johnson remains in jail without bail.
— Neal Putnam is a local freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.