Saturday, July 12, 2014

W-B man convicted of assault

Heroin dispute apparently led Armoni Johnson to stab acquaintance in 2011.

July 18. 2013 12:28AM

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WILKES-BARRE — Armoni Johnson rolled the dice and lost.

A Luzerne County jury on Wednesday found Johnson, 26, guilty of stabbing Justin Barna three times during what prosecutors said was a dispute over heroin.

Johnson initially pleaded guilty to simple assault and could have faced a year in jail.

He withdrew his guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge on Monday, resulting in atrial that ended with a conviction on two felony counts of aggravated assault. The jury acquitted Johnson of burglary.

Johnson, of Wilkes-Barre, forced his way into an apartment on Charter Drive on Aug. 7, 2011, and stabbed Justin Barna, 32, three times, according to Wright Township police. Assistant District Attorney Mamie Phillips said Johnson blamed Barna for stealing heroin and was upset that Barna refused to allow his apartment to be used to stash heroin.

Johnson kept his head down on the table as the jury foreperson read the verdict. He covered his face with a piece of paper as sheriff deputies escorted him from the courthouse to the county prison.

Judge Fred Pierantoni III said Johnson will be sentenced on Sept. 30. He could face more than two years in state prison.

Johnson’s lawyer, Allyson Kacmarski, attacked Barna’s credibility, saying he gave different statements to police about the stabbing. She suggested to jurors another person could have been responsible, as the bloody knife was found in a neighbor’s apartment.

Kacmarski further said police did not thoroughly investigate, claiming Barna’s cellphone records were never reviewed to determine if Johnson had indeed called him before being stabbed. Barna said Johnson had called asking to keep heroin in the apartment on Aug. 6.

A co-defendant in the case, Terrill Mattox, 29, of Wilkes-Barre, is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday on charges of burglary and aggravated assault.

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