New charges dropped

Prosecutor: Johnson 'will breathe his last breath' in prison

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— Convicted murderer Thomas Lee Johnson will not be prosecuted for a felony charge stemming from an alleged attempt to stop his sister from cooperating with authorities.

On Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James filed a motion to dismiss a tampering with a witness charge he filed against Johnson in September.

Routt County Judge James Garrecht granted St James' motion. St. James said he dismissed the class four felony because it was in the best economic interest of the county.

"Given that he was convicted of first-degree murder and will breathe his last breath in a prison cell," it was not economically feasible for the county to go forward with the case, St. James said.

A shackled Johnson appeared in court wearing orange pants and a gray sweatshirt.

During the court proceeding, Johnson did not sit with other Routt County inmates who were also making court appearances.

Johnson sat by himself at the end of a wooden bench in the first row in the courtroom, while the other inmates sat in a box used to seat juries.

A sheriff's deputy stood by Johnson's side during the court proceeding. Once the charge was dropped, Johnson was immediately removed from the courtroom and transported back to the Routt County Detention Center.

Johnson is being held there until he is sentenced in Larimer County for first-degree murder and criminal mischief and trespass. A 12-member jury in Larimer County convicted the 31-year-old man of the felonies

Nov. 14. After a 13-day trial in Fort Collins, the jury determined Johnson planned to kill Lori Bases the evening of

May 11, 2000.

The jury also convicted Johnson for vandalizing Bases' sport utility vehicle about a month before the 31-year-old woman was killed in her Steamboat Springs apartment. Johnson's trial was held in Fort Collins because of pretrial publicity in Routt County.

Norm Townsend, Johnson's attorney, was satisfied St. James decided against prosecuting his client for a letter Johnson wrote to his sister in August.

St. James filed the charge because in the letter Johnson allegedly tells his younger sister, Jennifer Johnson, not to cooperate with authorities or answer questions about certain aspects of the Bases case.

Jennifer Johnson's estranged husband, Jeff Evans, sent the letter to St. James. At the time Evans received the letter at his Divide home, the couple was separated.

Johnson's attorneys claimed the letter was stolen and Evans should have forwarded the letter to his wife, who was living with her parents in Longmont.

Johnson's sentencing hearing is set for 9 a.m. Jan. 16 at the Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins.

For the murder charge, Johnson will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

He can get an additional 16 years in prison for the mischief charge, and the trespass charge carries a prison term of between six months and eight years.

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