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March 16, 2017

Closing Arguments Conclude in War Machine Trial

LAS VEGAS—It's been a long couple of weeks for Jonathan "War Machine" Koppenhaver, but likely no less long for his victims, former adult star Christy Mack and boyfriend Corey Thomas, but now it's almost over, with the final closing arguments having been completed shortly before 6 p.m. today. According to the "blow-by-blow" tweeting of Fox5Vegas reporter Adam Herbets, Deputy Assistant District Attorney Rob Stephens delivered the argument for the prosecution, beginning shortly after District Judge Elissa Cadish finished charging the jury, reading each count of the indictment and explaining some of the terms used and reciting what the law requires to be proved before Koppenhaver could be found guilty of any particular one. "'Now I have to kill you.' Those are the last words Christy Mack heard," Stephens began, according to Herbets. He followed that up by tying each count of the indictment to a specific incident. For example, Count 4, "Battery Constituting Domestic Violence – Strangulation," related to an incident where Mack failed to clean the water in their pet snake's cage well enough, so Koppenhaver made her drink it, after which he choked her, while Count 8, "Battery Resulting in Substantial Bodily Harm Constituting Domestic Violence," was based on an incident in a mall parking lot where Koppenhaver allegedly slammed Mack's face into the car dashboard after she tried to get out of the car while they were arguing. One point that Stephens consistently hit on was the concept of consent: "Giving up is not consent," Stephens reportedly told the jury. "You're not required to scream to say 'No' if there's nobody around. 'No' should be enough; 'No, no, no,'" adding that the defendant was a "trained professional fighter. Christy Mack gave up. That is not consent." Later, regarding the kidnapping charge, Stephens argued that the defendant was guilty of kidnapping "because he held Christy in that room for two hours. He had a knife and her cell phone." Turning to Corey Thomas' injuries, Stephens explained, "Koppenhaver choked Corey Thomas three times. He doesn't have to lose consciousness. He doesn't have to see stars. It's a crime." After Stephens' argument concluded, the court took a half-hour lunch break, and then Jay Liederman began his address to the jury with a surprise: "Are you ready for the spoiler alert? We are willing to concede on some counts. Feel free to check the 'guilty' box," adding that while Koppenhaver was willing to admit his guilt on some counts, "he didn't commit 34 felonies." One of the major points Liederman attempted to make in his closing was that Mack's injuries were at least partly her own fault, since she had sent him at least one nude photo of herself on the night of the attack, and had reason to believe that Koppenhaver was coming over to her home, yet she remained there rather than leaving it to hide somewhere. "This is a 'kitchen sink case,'" Herbets reported Liederman as saying. "They threw everything they could at my client. Some of the charges will stick." He also reminded the jury that the burden of proof remains with the prosecution, and claimed that they had not presented enough evidence to find Koppenhaver guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on the more serious charges, and that much of the evidence they did present was circumstantial: "He said, she said." In sum, Liederman's argument ran the gamut from claiming that his client was so intoxicated that he didn't know what he was doing, to "logic" like, "If he wanted to kill Christy, why would he grab a knife? All he had to do was to keep hitting her." He also cast doubts on Mack's memories of the incident, even while admitting that he didn't believe she was lying in her testimony. "I am not trying to justify the battery, but these other counts? There's no evidence that any of this stuff happened," Liederman claimed, adding later, "There's a difference between morality and criminality. Just because you're not a nice guy doesn't make you a criminal." In the end, Liederman noted that Koppenhaver would plead guilty to Counts 16-23, all of which were either "Battery Resulting in Substantial Bodily Harm Constituting Domestic Violence" or "Battery With Use of a Deadly Weapon Constituting Domestic Violence." After Liederman concluded, Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth addressed the jury in rebuttal. "The defense wants you to think that this is the State of Nevada versus Christy Mack," she began. "It's not. This is [Jonathan Koppenhaver's] trial. ... His relationship with Christy Mack was textbook domestic violence. There were no secret meetings on ruining his life. ... You may not get this relationship. That's fine; I don't get it, but it is what it is. "It's easy to say she should have left," Bluth continued, referring to the earlier defense claim, "but she was young and still somehow in love. She was in the thick of it. ... If Christy Mack was lying, why wouldn't she exaggerate? She could have lied and said that War Machine beat and raped her all the time. "This isn't the Octagon," Bluth reminded the jury. "This isn't MMA fighting. There's no referee. There's no tapping out. This is domestic abuse." Bluth also denied that Koppenhaver was suffering the effects of any drugs that witnesses said he had been taking, whether steroids, Adderal or Lexapro, during the attack, noting that the defendant himself had tweeted that he "had zero side effects and he was cured 99 percent." "[Mr. Koppenhaver] came to so many forks in the road," she argued. "He could have stopped at any point along this road but he didn't, and now, this." With closing arguments now complete, the jury will begin deliberations tomorrow morning on the remaining charges. Koppenhaver faces life in prison, and the possibility of execution, if found guilty on the more serious charges.

 
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