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Sylva man sentenced for drug trafficking

A Sylva man who arrived an hour late to court, appeared to nap through his trial, admitted to using methamphetamine and smoking marijuana during the three-days of proceedings, then attempted to bolt from the courtroom after jury members returned guilty verdicts, will spend at least the next 14 years in prison.

District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch said a Jackson County jury on Thursday found Christopher Michael Johnson, 43, guilty on two counts of trafficking in methamphetamine, one count possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

After the guilty verdicts, the jury found Johnson guilty of being a habitual felon. Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Kuehnert imposed his sentence based on the penalty enhancer.

Prosecutors can seek habitual felon status for defendants who have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to three felony offenses in federal or state courts.

Johnson’s attempted flight from justice was short-lived. He managed just a few steps before a bailiff grabbed him. The defendant spent the remainder of his time in court shackled. 

A Jackson County deputy spotted Johnson, who was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant, on Feb. 23, 2021, at a Sylva service station. A search of Johnson’s vehicle revealed a gun, drug paraphernalia, marijuana and about 72.20 grams of methamphetamine.

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