I-35 rock thrower says AIDS made him ‘go insane,’ pleads guilty

Pat Johnson in court on April 13, 2017 where he pled guilty to rock-throwing cases. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Interstate 35 rock thrower Pat Johnson appeared before a district court judge Thursday and pleaded guilty to four of the 11 charges against him. The situation unfolded just after lunch after an unusual court proceeding earlier in the day.

Officers escorted Johnson in on a wheelchair where he told the judge his health is “so poor” he doesn’t think he is fit to stand a jury trial. Johnson said he’s suffered from the AIDS virus for a long time and the “virus made him go insane.”

“I wasn’t the real Pat Johnson out there ya know? I threw the rocks, but I don’t know if I was in my right mind when I threw the rocks,” Johnson told the judge

Johnson claims the conditions at the jail are bad and that he was poisoned multiple times. He told the judge he “doesn’t have a problem pleading guilty.” The judge wasn’t convinced, however, because Johnson said he only wanted to plead guilty because of the poor treatment in jail.

“The jail is not buying my medications because they are too expensive,” Johnson said. “I’ve thought about doing some seriously bad things and I’ve got to get care and I can’t get it in jail.”

At one point, Johnson said to the judge, “I sent those emails to you over the years,” but the judge denied ever seeing them. After bickering back and forth, the judge sent Johnson out of the courtroom to talk to his lawyer.


IN-DEPTH COVERAGE:

What we know about Pat Johnson

Neighbors react to Johnson’s arrest


Michael Watson, Johnson’s attorney, says this is one of the most bizarre cases he’s dealt with. “The twists and turns and going to court, but Mr. Johnson was ready to move on,” he said.

Just after 1 p.m., Johnson was brought back into the courtroom where he pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. In the plea deal, he was sentenced to 40 years for each count, which will be served concurrently. The other seven counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon were dismissed. Johnson is already serving life in prison for abusing a child back in 2012.

“I’m pleading guilty because I am guilty,” said Johnson, whose attorney said his client suffers from mental health and physical health problems.

“He’s sorry about the people, he truly is and hopes people can forgive him,” Watson said.

Johnson has waived his right to appeal.

Victim reacts to sentence

James Joseph watched from the back of the courtroom Thursday.

“I was one of the rockthrowing victims,” he said in the hall. “Initially some of the things that were said when he first came into the courtroom, I wasn’t quite sure if it was going to happen.”

Joseph and his two sons were on their way to their baseball tournament in Round Rock on May 28, 2016 when a rock came crashing through his front windshield.

Joseph says Johnson approached he and his sons minutes after they were hit. His tips helped police land Johnson’s arrest.

After the judge read the sentence, Joseph says he felt an instant sense of relief.

“Finally, all the pieces of the puzzle have been finally put together like we knew that they were.”

He says he usually doesn’t drive along I-35 and still doesn’t, but he hopes the closing of this case means it will make people feel safer to drive.

“He will never get out. And I think Art Acevedo said it best — ‘he will be under the prison,'” Joseph said.

Nearly 100 cases of rock throwing were reported during the spree. While most of the victims only received vehicle damage, three people were severely injured. One of the very first victims, Kenneth Johnson [no relation] suffered severe head trauma when a rock blasted through his windshield and hit him.

Former Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said Johnson committed the “lion’s share” of the nearly 100 rock-throwing cases that plagued the city.

 

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