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Man denied bond in shooting death

Toombs Superior Court Judge Roger Dunaway denied bond Tuesday for the man accused in the Thanksgiving eve shooting death of Todd Brooks.

Meanwhile, Michael Johnson's attorney is laying the groundwork to argue self-defense in the malice murder case.

Emotions were high during the 20-minute hearing Tuesday morning at the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center, which began with Judge Dunaway warning family members to control their emotions and ended with attorneys on both sides of the case clashing on various points.

Michael Johnson did not say much during the hearing. His only words came in response to a question from his attorney Jacque Hawk.

Mr. Hawk listed several reasons Judge Dunaway should consider bond in the case. He said his client had recently received an inheritance from his grandmother and had other income from some timber harvesting. He said Mr. Johnson has never been convicted of a felony and has close family ties to the area. He assured those in the hearing room that his client was not a flight risk.

"He's not going anywhere," Mr. Hawk said. "He's not planning on going anywhere."

Plus, Mr. Hawk said, his client has an "excellent self-defense case," pointing to an eyewitness in the crowd.

But District Attorney Dennis Sanders said that witness - a female originally taken into police custody - could be at risk of being intimidated by Mr. Johnson.

"Every time you talk to her, she gives a different account," he said.

But Mr. Hawk said the only intimidation had been on the part of the victim's family.

At one point, Mr. Hawk said he was surprised his client had even been arrested and charged with a crime. Mr. Sanders said Mr. Johnson was in custody because, "in this area when someone kills another person, we arrest them, and we prosecute."

Mr. Sanders argued that Mr. Johnson has the money, the motive and the ability to flee. He said Mr. Johnson does not have a steady job, and the only other thing that could keep him in the area is his family. But that is outweighed by the charges he faces.

"He's aware of the consequences of that," Mr. Sanders said.

And the list of charges against Mr. Johnson may grow based on items found in his Wrens Highway mobile home.

Authorities said at least 17 weapons - including five handguns - were found during a search. Plus, police found a silencer, which could bring one more felony charge.

Mr. Sanders said the mobile home was well-fortified, with metal doors and blacked-out windows. Officers also found a cache of medical supplies in the home.

Mr. Hawk described his client as a gun-collector who was taking steps to protect his property.

Mr. Sanders disagreed.

"It appeared he was ready to show force to whoever showed force to enter the house," he said.

More than 20 people attended Tuesday's hearing, including a dozen law enforcement officials and several family members on both sides of the case.

Web posted on Thursday, December 07, 2006

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