Ex-MMA fighter concedes lesser counts in Las Vegas trial
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The former mixed martial arts fighter named War Machine made a tactical move in his trial in Las Vegas on Thursday: His attorney conceded guilt on lesser charges in an attack on his porn star ex-girlfriend and her male friend in August 2015, but asked jurors to acquit on more serious charges that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.
Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver’s defense attorney, Jay Leiderman, told the jury during closing arguments that they should find the man who legally changed his name during his mixed martial arts career guilty of eight domestic battery charges for punching and injuring ex-girlfriend Christy Mack.
The Associated Press usually doesn’t identify alleged victims of sexual assault, but Mack gave the AP permission to use her name. Her legal name is Christine Mackinday.
“He did it. He doesn’t have a defense. He used fists to punch the face,” Leiderman said.
Koppenhaver also is guilty of threatening Mack’s boyfriend at the time, Corey Thomas, to dissuade him from going to police, the attorney said.
Convictions on those nine counts could get Koppenhaver decades in state prison.
Leiderman asked them to acquit Koppenhaver on counts including attempted murder, kidnapping and sexual assault that could get Koppenhaver life in prison.
Leiderman earlier characterized both Koppenhaver and Mack as “damaged people” with a mutually co-dependent relationship built on extravagant public personas and robust Twitter followings that masked deep personal image insecurities.
Koppenhaver also had brain injuries from his 19-fight professional MMA career, the defense attorney said, and used non-prescription stimulant and anti-depressant drugs and steroids that, combined, could have caused mood swings and violence that Leiderman termed “roid rage.”
Prosecutors Rob Stephens and Jacqueline Bluth argued the 35-year-old Koppenhaver is guilty of all 34 charges against him.
“He almost beat her to death, and she still loved him,” Bluth said before stepping to the witness stand and sitting where Mackinday spent eight hours last week testifying about facial injuries, broken bones, chipped teeth, cuts and bruises she received during what Bluth called “classic textbook” cycles of domestic violence.
“Tension. Explosion. Hearts and flowers,” the prosecutor said, characterizing 15 “roller-coaster” months that Mackinday, now 24, described in her relationship with Koppenhaver.
“She was always wanting emotional love from him, and he was always wanting physical,” Bluth said.
Koppenhaver didn’t testify in his defense. But it was clear Thursday that he was involved in Leiderman’s unusual legal gambit before the jury.
The defense attorney initially told jurors that Koppenhaver would concede guilt on three more felonies for beating Thomas and causing substantial bodily harm.
After a courtroom break and an animated defense table discussion, Leiderman stepped back before the jury and said he’d made a mistake: Thomas was injured during mutual combat, and Koppenhaver was defending himself in Mack’s bedroom.
Jurors begin deliberations Friday.
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