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Idaho Falls man sentenced to probation for strangling woman until she blacked out

January 8, 2019

An Idaho Falls man who choked a woman was sentenced Monday to probation with 10 days in jail.

Nathan Johnson, 29, was arrested in May after the victim escaped his house to a neighbor’s home and called 911.

The victim gave an impact statement to the court describing a cycle of abuse. She said Johnson had physically abused her multiple times, and that he would apologize after he had abused her.

This cycle culminated in the May incident when the two were having an argument. Both parties agree that Johnson choked her so that she couldn’t breathe.

“I kept trying to turn my head to break myself away or so I could breathe, and I couldn’t so I passed out,” the victim said.

The victim said she woke up and that he choked her until she blacked out a second time. She said Johnson also took her phone and smartwatch so that she could not call for help.

The victim said she then had a chance to escape and ran to the neighbor’s house. She said Johnson followed her, and tried to pull her away from the door. The neighbor came out and let the victim in, telling Johnson he could not join her.

Johnson disputed parts of the victim’s story, telling the court he only choked her once. He also said the victim attacked him first by scratching him.

The victim said her experience had made her afraid, and that she constantly watches to make sure Johnson isn’t following her.

Bonneville County Deputy Prosecutor Tanner Crowther said Johnson’s version of events was not much better than the victim’s. He said Johnson had told police he choked the victim because it was “easy.”

“Choking her was a bit extreme, but I had to try it at least once,” Crowther read from Johnson’s statement to investigators.

Crowther also was troubled by the letters of support sent by Johnson’s family and friends. He said many of them described his actions as self-defense.

“His actions were not justified, and all of these letters, I wonder where they got their facts, and I think it’s only logical to include where they got them,” Crowther said. “They got them from Nathan.”

Defense Attorney Shan Perry said his client’s actions were egregious, but pointed out Johnson had not violated his no-contact order and had cooperated with pretrial services.

Johnson apologized to the victim in his statement to the court.

“I regret it every day of my life,” Johnson said. “It haunts me every day of my life and I just wish it’d never happened and I’m just sorry that it did.”

Johnson said domestic violence classes have been helping him learn to cope with his frustration, and that he was gaining life skills he wished he had before.

District Judge Dane Watkins Jr. said he was encouraged by Johnson’s apology and his growth in the domestic violence classes. Watkins said without those improvements he would be sending Johnson to prison or a rider program.

Watkins added that the crime was serious and that Johnson could have been facing a more serious charge.

Johnson was also sentenced to pay a $1,000 fine. He was given an underlying sentence of two to seven years in prison.

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