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Jury Finds MMA Fighter War Machine Guilty of Battery, Sexual Assault in Attack on Porn Star Ex Christy Mack

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The former mixed martial arts fighter who legally changed his name to War Machine has been found guilty of 29 out of 34 charges stemming from an attack on his porn star girlfriend and the man he caught in bed with her. The jury was hung when it came to the two attempted murder charges, and jurors found War Machine not guilty of burglary, coercion, and battery with intent to commit sexual assault.

The decision came just moments ago from a jury in Las Vegas.

War Machine faced 34 counts in total, including seven “Class A” felonies which carry the most severe punishments. He was ultimately found guilty of six of the seven most serious charges he faced. Those most serious charges stemmed from three separate attacks on “Christy Mack,” the girlfriend.

The penalty for the most serious charge, kidnapping with a deadly weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm, could range from a maximum of life without parole to a minimum of a 40-year sentence with a 15-year possibility for parole, plus anywhere between one and twenty years additional time due to the use of a deadly weapon.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 5 at 8:30 a.m.

During closing arguments, the defense conceded that War Machine was guilty of five counts of battery resulting in substantial bodily harm constituting domestic violence, carrying a minimum one-year sentence. The defense also conceded guilt on three counts of battery with a deadly weapon constituting domestic violence, carrying a minimum two-year sentence.

Christine Mackinday, known professionally as “Christy Mack” in the adult film industry, was injured by War Machine, the defense conceded, in the face, eye, nose, mouth, teeth, leg, ribs, and abdomen. The defense also conceded that a deadly weapon, a kitchen knife, was used to threaten Mack through pokes to the hand, ear, and head or hair.

Corey Thomas, the man Christy Mack been dating for two months and with whom she was becoming increasingly serious, was also injured.

War Machine, formerly known as Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver, had also admitted to the attack from behind bars through Twitter messages attributed to him and posted on his account. In the posts, which were not presented as evidence in the case, War Machine admitted making “poor choices” after seeing the woman he loved in bed with someone else, but the post argued that the prosecutor had sought to create a “media circus” by charging him with a litany of serious felonies he believed were too severe for what occurred.

The trial ultimately left the jury to decide whether War Machine was guilty of the 26 other counts, including the most serious charges.

War Machine did not testify. He did, however, face nine days of testimony and argument. The state’s case, led by prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth, began with opening statements containing a frantic, chaotic 911 call placed by Mack while Thomas was being attacked. Mack said nothing during the call, and police software failed to triangulate her exact address, thus delaying the arrival of help. It was only after Mack ran out the door in a blanket and wandered through the night to nearby homes that neighbors called police.

Corey Thomas testified that War Machine threatened to kill him, then placed him in what Thomas described as a choke hold. Thomas testified that he was able to escape the hold just as he was beginning to pass out. Prosecutors later asked another professional fighter, Herman Terrado, originally called as a defense witness, to name the hold Thomas described. Terrado agreed that it was probably a “rear naked” choke hold, not a submission hold. A submission hold would, alternatively, have controlled rather than choked Thomas.

Mack tearfully testified that War Machine then turned his attention to her. Through an emotional description of events, she described a violent, sustained attack, during which War Machine repeatedly beat her, went through her phone, and continued to struck her for every message he didn’t like. Mack said she had immediately deleted the record of her earlier call to 911, fearing he would find it. Mack also testified to a series of increasingly violent confrontations earlier in their relationship and a series of death threats. She said that War Machine needed constant sex and constant validation, then went on to describe the series of sexually explicit text messages she had sent to him and received from him. She testified that the messages were an attempt to satisfy War Machine’s ego, even though she was pulling away from him emotionally.

Defense attorneys paid special attention to a naked photo Mack sent to War Machine just a short time before the attack. Upon seeing it, War Machine said, “I need that.” “It’s all yours,” Mack responded. Corey Thomas had testified that he had no idea another man was in Mack’s life. Defense attorneys argued that Mack had ultimately invited two men into her home on the same night and stayed inside to watch the attack against Thomas rather than run out the back door.

Defense attorneys pointed out that Mack asked to be choked during sex and that rough behavior was a frequent part of the couple’s consensual sex life. They argued that War Machine had consent for the attack because the text messages gave War Machine a “good faith belief” that Mack had “consented to sex,” even if that belief was “mistaken.”

The defense also insinuated, though later backpedaled, that Mackinday was attempting to profit from the attack by describing it in social media posts. Prosecutors later asked her if the attack was worth it. Mackinday testified that she would never want to “almost die” for an increased number of Twitter followers.

Mackinday’s mother, Erin, corroborated her daughter’s story by testifying to witnessing increasing incidents of violence between her daughter and War Machine. Erin Mackinday said her daughter began acting differently as the relationship progressed. She started noticing marks on her daughter’s body. The mother testified to becoming increasingly concerned that War Machine would kill her daughter.

Erin Mackinday then testified that War Machine admitted to her on the phone that he and Christy “got into a fight and I had to beat her up.” That call, she said, came after the August 8, 2014 attack which lead to the current case.

Erin Mackinday then described rushing to her daughter’s home, fearing her daughter was dead. Upon speaking with an officer on the scene, she was told only that her daughter was in the hospital.

Erin Mackinday said she “hated” War Machine. Rather than regret that she did not call the police to report the abuse earlier in the relationship, the mother told the courtroom that she wished she had shot War Machine instead.

Defense attorneys argued that Christy Mack’s injuries were not as severe as she initially claimed. One expert, Dr. Steven Saxe, said that the hard medical evidence suggested Mack was possibly struck only twice in the face. He agreed that while it was impossible for the medical data to indicate the precise number of blows, any blows beyond two would have had to have been dealt in precisely the same locations as the two countable blows so as not to produce additional, discernible injuries.

Defense attorneys further questioned whether Mack suffered the number of broken bones she claimed during testimony to have suffered. The confusion was later cleared by Dr. James Thomas Walker who treated Mackinday in the emergency room. Dr. Walker testified that his preliminary examination suggested Mack probably had fifteen to eighteen broken bones, and that he had told her as such. Later diagnoses revealed a smaller number of fractures, he said.

Defense attorneys also called Dr. Steven Holper, who testified that he believed MRI scans of War Machine’s brain taken shortly before the trial indicated damage in three areas of the brain. The damage, he explained, when coupled with War Machine’s use of Adderall, Lexapro, and steroids, resulted in animal-like impulsive behavior and an inability to discern right from wrong. The prosecution challenged that assertion by comparing scans of War Machine’s brain with images containing large, white blotches showing a more clearly damaged brain. War Machine’s brain scan contained no such blotches, though the doctor said the damage he believed War Machine might be suffering might not necessarily be visible in MRI scans. During a testy cross-examination by lead prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth, Dr. Holper admitted on cross-examination that he couldn’t recall his own fee structure for testifying. When presented with his fee statement, he argued – with arms flailing – that his own fees for testifying as an expert witness were too high. He blamed his own high fees on “the girls” back at his office.

William Speas, a crime scene analyst with the Las Vegas Police Department, testified that he took photos of Mack’s bloodied, swollen face shortly after the attack, but could not communicate with her while doing so because of her condition. He went on to testify about collecting blood and other evidence at the scene of the alleged attack. He photographed, but did not collect for analysis, fibers stuck in the serrated blade of one of Mack’s kitchen knives. Mack had testified that War Machine used the knives to cut her hair and her wigs.

War Machine was born under the name Jonathan Koppenhaver. He changed his legal name to “War Machine” to attempt to avoid a marketing dispute.

Editor’s Note: We’ve updated this article to reflect the possible penalties.  

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