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March 15, 2017

Defense Calls First Witnesses In Day 7 Of War Machine Trial

LAS VEGAS—With prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth having rested her case, the defense was ready with its first witness as the trial of Jonathan "War Machine" Koppenhaver got under way again after lunch on Tuesday—but first, there was that little matter of District Judge Elissa Cadish reading the defendant his rights, especially the one under the Fifth Amendment where Koppenhaver has the right not to be a witness against himself—but that if he did choose to testify, the prosecution could use his past felony convictions against him. It was at that point that Koppenhaver said his first words in open court, though the jury was not present for them. He told the judge that he was still on probation for one of those felonies, but neither he nor his attorneys gave any indication whether Koppenhaver would take the witness stand. Instead, defense co-counsel Brandon Sua called Herman "The Hitman" Terrado, a fellow fighter who used to train with Koppenhaver, to testify on his former sparring partner's behalf—but Sua may have gotten more than he bargained for with Terrado's testimony. Terrado was asked to give some examples of the fighting techniques he had observed Koppenhaver use, and he demonstrated wrestling holds known as the "rear naked choke" and the "seat belt" on Sua himself. "Standing in the center of the courtroom in front of the jury box," reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal's David Ferrara, "Terrado squeezed his arms around the torso of the defense lawyer, who is taller than the witness and also well-built. The latter maneuver, Terrado said, is an effort to 'control position of your opponent' and to 'wear them down ... Terrado told jurors that a chokehold could take anywhere from 10 seconds to five minutes to knock someone out." Terrado also testified that Koppenhaver had choked him into unconsciousness several times as the pair trained together, and that he had never been able to break one of the fighter's chokeholds. He also said that he had seen Koppenhaver involved in "heated situations" while the pair were at the gym, but that usually, the MMA fighter was "pretty calm." "He's pretty chill unless you're antagonizing him," Fox 5 Vegas quoted Terrado as saying. "Like anyone else, he'll defend himself." However, regarding Koppenhaver's steroid use, which had been testified to by both Christy Mack and her mother, Terrado said he'd never personally seen Koppenhaver use them, although they had discussed them. "I knew about it … Gym guys know. We talk," Terrado told the jury. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, steroid use is known to "increase irritability and aggression" and the site notes that some abusers "report that they have committed aggressive acts, such as physical fighting."  And then there was the question of Koppenhaver's mental state, with Sua asking Terrado, "You did know he was suffering from depression?" "Yes sir," he replied. "What about anxiety?" asked the defense. "Yes sir." "Was it common to experience outburst?" "No." When it came time for cross-examination, Chief Deputy District Attorney Rob Stephens asked Terrado about what happens in the ring when one fighter subdues the other, and that person wants to surrender? Terrado replied that the person being restrained can "tap out," requiring the other fighter to release his hold. "There’s punishments if people don’t let go upon counsel of the referee?" the prosecutor asked. "Yes, sir," Terrado replied. "In battery domestic violence strangulation cases, you’re aware there’s no referee, correct?" Stephens pressed. "Yes, sir," Terrado repeated. "What’s the purpose of a referee at the UFC fights?" "To ensure fighters’ safety," Terrado replied. After Terrado was excused, the defense called one additional witness, a registered nurse whose name was not revealed by news media, who said that Koppenhaver had lived with her and her husband for three months while recovering from a back injury, that he had used steroids while living with them, and that he would sometimes act as a "peacekeeper" when fights broke out between the couple. Generally, she described him as a "sweet guy" who loved dogs, and that when she would see Koppenhaver and Mack together, they appeared "lovey-dovey" and never fought in her presence. (Mack later took to Twitter to dispute the witness's claim of being a "good friend" of Mack, saying the two had only met four times, but Mack later deleted the tweet.) There was to be one final witness testifying Tuesday afternoon, the ex-boyfriend of Mack's mom Erin, but when called to the stand, that person was not in the building. However, after being contacted by court officers, the man agreed to testify when court reconvenes this afternoon. While the defense team described the witness as "extremely hostile" toward their client, they nonetheless believed that his testimony could be helpful to their case. After testimony concluded for the day, Koppenhaver took to Twitter to post a biblical quote—one of several similar quotes he's posted over the past several months that he's been incarcerated and awaiting trial—and the photo at the top of his Twitter page shows him embracing two children.   Whether the defense will attempt to use any of Koppenhaver's tweets during the trial to show the defendant's state of mind is unclear, since such material wouldn't be allowed unless Koppenhaver himself testifies, a scenario that is looking increasingly unlikely.

 
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