Woman’S Plea Deal Averts Murder Trial

Arizona Courts

Arizona Courts Photo by Andy Towle. |

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A woman facing attempted first-degree murder charges pleaded guilty recently to aggravated assault, likely sidestepping years in prison.

Ironically, Brooke Lynn Johnson’s plea deal neatly coincided with the arrest of her victim, William Sweatt, on drug charges.

However, Johnson’s alleged accomplice in Sweatt’s Oct. 25, 2011 stabbing, Andrew James Hargis, 32, of Payson, will still face a jury in January.

Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill on Dec. 7 sentenced Johnson to three years of probation, warning she will face prison time if she violates probation. In a written statement to the judge, Johnson said she had made a mistake and was sorry. As a single parent, Johnson said she wanted nothing more than to be with her daughter, who she conceived at age 15 after being raped, according to the presentencing report.

“I realize I was wrong, but I pray my mistake does not do any more damage than it already has,” she said.

The versions of what happened the night of Oct. 15 vary wildly.

Sweatt told officers Hargis had been at his home smoking, drinking and talking on the porch. When it started raining, Sweatt gave Hargis a ride home.

Some time later, Hargis reappeared and got into a fight with Sweatt over a cell phone.

After the scuffle, Hargis left again. But he then returned with Johnson, this time armed with a household kitchen knife.

Johnson reportedly stabbed Sweatt near the home’s front door. A struggle continued into the living room, where Sweatt’s 5-year-old son lay on the couch.

Sweatt said he managed to grab a pellet gun from a bedroom, hitting Johnson and Hargis with the butt until they fled.

“Miss Johnson invaded my home and stabbed me five times, missing a main artery by centimeters,” he wrote to the court. “If she had (hit the artery) I would have lost the use of my arm permanently or possibly have bled to death.”

Johnson and Hargis gave a different account.

Hargis told Johnson that Sweatt had knocked him unconscious and stolen his wallet and cell phone.

In an attempt to “negotiate,” Johnson grabbed a kitchen knife and walked to Sweatt’s home with Hargis. “Defendant stated when she arrived at the home her intent was to resolve the matter regarding the altercation that occurred between her boyfriend, Andrew, and William Sweatt,” a probation officer wrote.

When Sweatt opened the door, she said he hit her with the gun, pulled her into the house and told her he was going to blow her head off, the report states.

Johnson claimed she acted out of self-defense, stabbing Sweatt until the knife broke.

Probation said it appears the whole incident stemmed from a drug deal gone bad.

During a presentencing interview, probation said Johnson downplayed her involvement, expressed no remorse and justified her actions.

While Johnson had no prior felony convictions, she was arrested for forgery and possession of drug paraphernalia while on release conditions in this case. A Maricopa County judge sentenced her May 3 to two years probation. He also stipulated that she complete 100 hours of community service, get her GED and serve two months in jail.

Sweatt wrote that he lost his job, home and vehicle because of his injuries. He said his son will never forget what he saw that night.

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