Baltimore judge sentences man to 683 years in prison for sexual assault, robberies

A Baltimore judge sentenced a man to 683 years in prison after he was convicted by a jury of sexual assault and pleaded guilty to more than a dozen armed robberies and drug offenses.

The unusual sentence was handed down by Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn on Monday against Anthony Johnson, 26, of Baltimore, who had been convicted by a jury of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at gunpoint.

Johnson then entered an “open plea” to all remaining counts against him, including a series of armed robberies of women. The open plea gave the court discretion to determine his sentence without a binding agreement in place.

The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office called the sentence “appropriate.”

“Anthony Johnson was a menace to society,” Assistant State’s Attorney Richard Gibson said in a statement released by his office. “He sexually assaulted an underage young lady, robbed 15 victims, and then conspired to frame an innocent person for his violent actions. … We are grateful that the judge sentenced him appropriately for his heinous conduct and we obtained justice for our victims.”

Johnson was free at the time of his crimes after taking a plea in May 2015 to first-degree assault in an attempted murder case and receiving a sentence of 15 years with all but about four months suspended. Court records show Phinn was the judge who accepted that plea. He was also convicted of armed robbery in 2009 and received two years in prison.

Johnson’s defense attorney, Joshua Insley, said he has filed an appeal of the latest sentence, and declined to comment further.

The sexual assault occurred June 27, 2016, at about 5 p.m. in an alley near the rear of Harford Heights Elementary School, in the 1900 block of N. Broadway. The girl said she was taking a shortcut when a man pulled a gun and told her to be quiet, prosecutors said.

The attacker asked her if she wanted to die and if she would have sex with him, and then assaulted her at gunpoint, prosecutors said.

Gibson was coordinating with another prosecutor on a separate investigation when they intercepted a jail call that revealed a plot to frame an innocent man for Johnson’s crimes, the State’s Attorney’s Office said. Additional investigation revealed that an accomplice helped Johnson carry out the string of robberies.

Prosecutors said some of the robbery victims were transgender, causing members of the local LGBT community to warn each other.

Phinn sentenced Johnson to life, with all but 50 years suspended for the sexual assault. Johnson still faced a slew of open charges related to the robberies and drug offenses, and agreed to plead guilty.

Phinn sentenced Johnson to an additional 633 years, the first 80 without parole, for those charges.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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