Jury finds Jonassen guilty on both counts
BY Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com July 19, 2012 2:02PM
Updated: July 20, 2012 9:18AM
After just an hour of deliberation, a federal jury ruled that Martin Jonassen was guilty of kidnapping his relative from her home in Missouri and taking her to a motel in Portage last September.
They also found him guilty of obstruction of justice in relation to trying to bribe and threaten the victim into changing her statement.
The jury rejected various arguments, including that he was on cocaine at the time, that Jonassen made during his closing speech Thursday morning at the U.S. District Court in Hammond.
Jonassen, 56, was charged with kidnapping the 21-year-old relative from her home in Gallatin, Mo., on Sept. 10 and driving her to the Portage Days Inn. She escaped on Sept. 12 when she heard him leave the room while she was showering and ran naked along U.S. 20 into a nearby liquor store. A security video presented during the trial showed Jonassen dragging the victim from the store as she called for help and tried to grab onto various door handles.
U.S. District Judge James Moody repeatedly stopped Jonassen, who represented himself, throughout his hour-long speech, as Jonassen tried to tell the jury that the judge was in cahoots with the prosecutors, that he had been beaten in prison and that four of the witnesses who testified against him had sold him cocaine. He argued that if he was on drugs at the time, he wasn’t in a healthy state of mind and therefore could not be found guilty. No evidence was presented about his claimed drug use.
“What you’re saying is totally inappropriate,” Moody told Jonassen more than a dozen times throughout the speech.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster argued that Jonassen’s speech showed he had no respect for the trial or what he did to his 21-year-old relative. She noted that in phone recordings played during the trial, Jonassen’s relatives hadn’t shown surprise at what he did and said that he wasn’t really sorry if he didn’t change his actions.
“He doesn’t care,” she said. “No respect at all.”
Jonassen tried to argue that the victim had willingly gone with him last September on a trip headed to Michigan when she told him at the Days Inn in Portage that she wanted to return to Missouri. Jonassen claimed he didn’t want to waste the money on gas and that the two then got into an argument.
“I do apologize for being so, what do you call it, stingy about the gas prices,” he told the jury. “ ... I won’t be stingy again.”
He also said he knew the security video looks bad but he was just trying to protect her and called their fight a domestic dispute.
“I’m not denying it, I don’t want my love running around this murder capital,” he said.
Koster argued that Jonassen had actually sexually abused the victim earlier in 2011 and was upset when he found out shortly after that she had started to date another man. She quoted a letter he wrote to the victim just after he was arrested in which he said he “wanted you all to myself.”
“This was his analysis: I want her, so I’m going to take her,” Koster said.
Jonassen faces a sentence of 20 years to life.