Wednesday, September 26, 2001
Steamboat Springs A judge on Wednesday ordered Thomas Lee Johnson not to have contact with anyone who might be called as a witness at his upcoming murder trial.
Routt County Judge James Garrecht ruled Johnson can't talk to anyone prosecutors plan to call to testify for the Oct. 29 jury trial, which has been moved to Larimer County.
Among those witnesses are Johnson's parents and other family members, Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James said.
Garrecht issued the order at the urging of St. James.
Johnson was appearing in county court on a felony charge of tampering with a witness.
St. James filed the charge last week after Johnson reportedly wrote a letter to his sister, Jennifer Johnson, urging her not to answer questions about certain aspects of the case.
The 31-year-old Johnson faces charges of first-degree murder, criminal trespass and mischief. He is accused of stabbing Lori Bases to death in May 2000.
Because of the tampering allegation, St. James requested Garrecht to issue a restraining order prohibiting Johnson from having any further contact with witnesses.
"Mr. Johnson has seen every piece of evidence we have," St. James said.
"We will show at trial he has attempted to distort and manipulate the process."
St. James said the restraining order is needed to protect the integrity of the judicial process.
"There is nothing that stops Mr. Johnson from violating the law," St. James said.
"Let his attorneys and investigators have the contact with these witnesses."
Johnson's court-appointed attorney, William Schurman, argued the request is unfair and there are already laws in place that stop Johnson from tampering with witnesses.
Johnson "has valid reasons to consult with his parents and family," Schurman said. "If he contacts a witness and threatens, intimidates, harasses or tampers, that is a crime."
To not allow him to "talk to his mom or dad is overbearing."
Garrecht sided with St. James and ordered the prosecutor to provide the Routt County Sheriff's Office with a list of witnesses.
Garrecht also ordered St. James to provide the list to Johnson and his attorneys.
Johnson's next court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 22.