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Judge won't move kidnapping trial

May 28, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes denied a defense motion Tuesday to move the trial of a Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., man charged with kidnapping and attempted first-degree murder.

The defense asked for the motion after the defendant, Mark A. Johnson, 28, was charged Friday with two counts of second-degree sexual assault on another inmate at the Eastern Regional Jail in April, according to court records.

The defense asked for the trial to be moved to another county because they do not believe he will be able to get a fair trial in Jefferson County due to negative publicity, according to court records.

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Johnson has been in jail awaiting trial on the kidnapping and attempted murder charges since his arrest on Aug. 7, 1996, in connection with an assault on Donald Milligan, of Gaithersburg, Md., four days before. The trial is scheduled to begin on June 3.

Potential jurors will be questioned to see if they can give a fair and impartial verdict in his case, Wilkes ruled Tuesday.

Johnson is charged with kidnapping, bringing stolen property into the state, attempted first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to bring stolen property into the state, and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Johnson faces a maximum sentence of life in prison with no recommendation of mercy if convicted of kidnapping charges.

Johnson's attorney has recommended that Johnson accept a plea agreement to kidnapping in exchange for an 80-year prison sentence, according to court records.

"Based upon my analysis of the state's case, I must recommend that you accept the plea agreement," attorney David A. Camilletti wrote, according to court records. "The statements of the witnesses, including the victim and Tammy Reel, are strong enough to convince a jury of the charges of kidnapping, which carries a possible life sentence."

The attorney also referred to the DNA testing that had been done on evidence.

"I do not believe any of this testing will yield results strong enough to convince a jury of your innocence," his attorney wrote.

On Aug. 3, 1996, Reel was at a convienence store in Buckeystown, Md., and asked Milligan for a ride to a nearby motel, according to court records.

Milligan went up to Reel's room with her and while his back was to the door, he was attacked from behind, according to court records. The man was later identified by the victim as Johnson, according to court records.

Milligan was beaten repeatedly until he lost consciousness, according to court records.

When he came to his senses, he was in the trunk of his car as it bounced along back roads, according to court records.

When the trunk opened, Milligan "played dead" as he was pulled out of the car, court records said.

Milligan told investigators he was thrown into the Potomac River near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., court records said.

He said he stayed under water as long as he could so his assailants would think he was dead. When he came to the surface he ran to a nearby campground to call for help, court records said.

Reel is being held at the Eastern Regional Jail. She is expected to testify for the prosecution in Johnson's trial.

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