A man convicted of attempted first-degree murder won a small battle in court Friday when he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Zacharia Johnson, 27, may have the opportunity to exit prison as an old man after he serves time for stabbing Robert Masterson multiple times with a knife in March 2013.
Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey also sentenced Johnson to three terms of eight to 10 years in prison, to be served concurrently with the attempted murder charge and with one another, for aggravated burglary, aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary.
Johnson told the judge he plans to appeal the sentences. Johnson filed a motion for a new trial May 28, two weeks after he was convicted by a jury.
He claims he did not receive a fair trial because his co-defendant, Robert Simmons, did not testify during the proceedings because of a threat of perjury from the state.
The state responded shortly after the motion was filed, saying Simmons never said or implied that he was worried about being charged with perjury again.
Forgey denied the motion for a new trial immediately before sentencing Johnson Friday.
The attack on Masterson took place March 4, 2013, when police say Johnson and Simmons had a neighbor knock on Masterson’s door so they could get in.
Johnson took Masterson to the ground and stabbed him, the affidavit states. Masterson said he saw his neighbor, Pamela Nemetz, while he was rolling around on the floor.
Police interviewed Nemetz, who eventually admitted to witnessing the attack. She told police Johnson and Simmons had been in her apartment shortly before the incident.
Initially, police couldn't identify a suspect in the stabbing. Two days later, however, Simmons drove his car off Chamberlain Road in Mills into the North Platte River in an attempt to “atone for his sins for stabbing a guy the other night.”
Police later interviewed Masterson, who identified Johnson in a photo lineup but couldn't identify Simmons. Nemetz also later identified the two, according to police.
Simmons pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and aggravated burglary and was sentenced in August 2013 to 20 to 25 years in prison for his role in the attack.
Johnson is also ordered to pay $602 in restitution to Masterson.