Appeal in the works

Johnson's attorney says he will contest his client's conviction after sentencing

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— Once Thomas Lee Johnson is sentenced to life in prison without parole next year, an appeal of his conviction is likely to follow.

Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 16 in Larimer County for first-degree murder and criminal trespass and mischief.

Johnson was convicted of the charges for killing Lori Bases the evening of May 11, 2000, and vandalizing the woman's vehicle about a month before the murder.

The murder charge carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

For the mischief charge, Johnson could get an additional 16 years in prison. The trespass charge carries a prison term of between six months and eight years.

After Justice Joseph P. Quinn sentences Johnson in Fort Collins, defense attorneys will have 45 days to file a motion to appeal the convictions.

"There is no doubt this case will be appealed," said William Schurman, one of Johnson's court-appointed attorneys.

Schurman expects lawyers within the state's Public Defender's Office to pick up the case and handle the appeal once Johnson is sentenced.

"The office in Denver handles all of the appeals," Schurman said. "There are 10 to 12 lawyers in the office that focus on appeals."

Before Johnson's sentencing date, he must deal with a pending felony charge in Routt County.

Johnson, 31, will appear before Routt County Judge James Garrecht today for allegedly tampering with a witness. Johnson was charged with the class four felony in September after he wrote a letter to his sister in August.

Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James alleged that the letter encourages Johnson's younger sister, Jennifer Johnson, not to cooperate with authorities. St. James said Johnson used the letter to notify his sister of upcoming court hearings and that he instructed her not to answer questions about certain aspects of the Bases' case, St. James said.

St. James filed the charge after receiving the letter from Jennifer Johnson's estranged husband, Jeff Evans.

Evans received the letter in August at the couple's Divide home. At the time, the couple was separated, and Johnson was living with her parents in Longmont.

During Thomas Johnson's

13-day trial at the Larimer County Justice Center, Evans testified he opened the letter and read it. Evans testified he was concerned and sent the letter to St. James.

Johnson's attorneys claim the letter was stolen, and Evans should have forwarded the letter to his wife.

Twelve Larimer County residents convicted Johnson of the three felonies Nov. 14.

The eight women and four men reached the verdict after listening to seven days of testimony. The jury deliberated for about eight hours over the course of two days.

The jury determined Johnson planned to kill the 31-year-old Bases at her Steamboat Springs apartment, rejecting Johnson's claim he killed the woman in self-defense.

The trial was moved to Larimer County because of pretrial publicity in Routt County.

Johnson returned to Routt County Nov. 15. He is being held in the Routt County Detention Center.

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