Columbia man convicted of sexually assaulting MU student

Thursday, April 19, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:10 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Columbia man faces life in prison after a jury found him guilty Wednesday of sexually assaulting an MU graduate student last year.

At the end of his two-day trial, Tywan Johnson, 25, was convicted of first-degree sodomy, first-degree armed criminal action and resisting arrest.

On Tuesday, jurors heard testimony from the 26-year-old victim, and a detective and a crime scene technician from the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. The victim told jurors that Johnson sexually assaulted her in her East Park Lane Sunrise Estates apartment early on April 21, 2006. She testified that during the assault, Johnson threatened her with a knife and cut her hand and arm when she resisted.

But Johnson gave a different explanation for the victim’s wounds when he took the stand Wednesday. He said the victim came down to his girlfriend’s apartment, where he was staying that morning, and asked for help with a cut on her hand. He told jurors that her hand was covered with a bloody towel.

After he was done treating her, Johnson testified, she began to pull his shorts off, initiating sex.

“When you get around everything else, what it comes down to is we don’t agree the act was consensual,” Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks said in his closing argument. “It’s the classic ‘he said, she said.’”

Pictures of the victim introduced by the prosecution Tuesday showed multiple bruises on her body and cuts on one of her arms and one of her hands that required 11 stitches.

In his closing argument, Johnson’s attorney, public defender Michael Coles, argued that Johnson’s behavior after the assault wasn’t typical of a person who had just committed a crime. “Why would a man who just committed forcible sodomy stick around and help bandage up his victim?” he asked.

Hicks pointed to the credibility of the victim, a graduate of Truman State University who is doing postgraduate studies at MU. The prosecutor then highlighted Johnson’s criminal record of four felony convictions. Hicks told the jury that it was a guilty conscience that made Johnson flee from deputies the afternoon of the assault.

After deliberating for more than half an hour, the jury returned its guilty verdict.

Hicks said he was pleased with the outcome. “I thought it was a very strong case from the beginning because there was a lot of physical evidence to corroborate what the victim said,” he said.

Johnson’s sentence will be determined at a sentencing hearing June 11.

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