(Source: CBS 5 News) Elizabeth Johnson, the mother of missing baby Gabriel Johnson, reads her statement before the judge at her sentencing Friday afternoon.
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
Elizabeth Johnson, the mother of missing baby Gabriel Johnson, was sentenced to 5 1/4 years in the Department of Correction in a hearing punctuated by Johnson's admission that she deserved the maximum penalty, and the emotional pleas from the family of the baby's father that she receive the harshest sentence possible.
Judge Joseph Kreamer issued the sentence after a long afternoon of testimony. Kreamer said she would be given credit for the 1,062 days she has already served in jail, meaning she will spend about 2 1/4 years in prison. She was also given four years of probation upon her release.
Judge Kreamer also said Johnson will have to get mental health counseling as part of her sentence and that she not be around or have custody of any minor children.
Kreamer said Johnson's troubled upbringing and lack of a criminal record were considered in his decision.
Kreamer said that while he knew Johnson was hoping to avoid further jail time, "You are not going to walk out of this courtroom a free woman today."
Johnson remained for the most part emotionless, finally breaking down during some testimony and offering a sometimes tearful statement to the court, the first time Johnson has been heard from during her trial.
Prosecutors gave Johnson one last chance to tell the court the "actual physical whereabouts" of Gabriel Johnson in exchange for probation, but Johnson was either unable or unwilling to say.
Elizabeth Johnson was convicted Oct. 18 of conspiracy to commit custodial interference, custodial interference and unlawful imprisonment in the disappearance of her son, Gabriel Johnson, who was 8 months old when he was last seen in San Antonio, TX, in December 2009. She claimed she gave the child to a couple in San Antonio.
"I know I was wrong. Regardless of my side or story at the end of the day Gabriel is still missing and it's my fault," Elizabeth Johnson said. "I would convict myself. I do deserve the maximum. I do."
Still, she remained adamant that her side of the story was never truly heard during the trial and that she was not vengeful or vindictive as painted by the prosecution.
Logan McQueary, Gabriel's father, testified by phone at Johnson's sentencing.
"Although Elizabeth may be sorry for what she's done, it still doesn't change what she did," McQueary said. "I'm not the same person I used to be."
He said she should be held accountable and punished and should be given the maximum sentence possible.
Johnson has been jailed without bond since January 2010 and unlike during her trial, appeared in her jail clothing at Friday's sentencing.
She changed her story since the ordeal began. She initially told the boy's father, Logan McQueary, that she killed her son and put his body in a dumpster, but later told authorities she gave the child away to a couple in San Antonio.
Prosecutors told jurors that Johnson was angry and determined to "get back" at McQueary. The couple had broken up and McQueary was granted joint custody.
Prosecutors said that Johnson wanted to give the child up for adoption, but when McQueary refused, Johnson took the child to Texas without McQueary's permission.
"It wasn't like that," Elizabeth Johnson said Friday. "It wasn't about Logan. It was about Gabriel."
Johnson's attorney Marc Victor did not present any evidence during the trial or call any witnesses.
He told the jury that prosecutors failed to prove their case that Johnson kidnapped her son.
Victor admitted that his client was guilty of custodial interference, but said that Johnson had every right to leave the state with her son at the time that she did.
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