ATLANTA — A now-former Atlanta police officer who pleaded guilty to assaulting an unarmed, teenaged auto theft suspect in 2016 - a suspect who was surrendering to police - has finally been sentenced.
It comes after a judge granted a sentencing delay, after the former officer's attorney claimed that his client had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Attorney Raemona Byrd Jones said Matthew Johns, a U.S. Marine who served two tours in Iraq from 2005-09 prior to joining the Atlanta Police Department, had a psychological evaluation indicating Johns was suffering from PTSD.
The attorney requested the additional time - the second request for a delay - to prepare alternative sentencing proposals.
Following Johns' guilty plea on July 10, Johns' attorney asked for a later sentencing date to conduct the PTSD evaluation. The attorney told the judge that Johns' evaluation took place on July 24, and the attorney requested another delay, for time to prepare arguments for leniency based on Johns' PTSD.
Johns told the court then that he was diagnosed with PTSD and had sought treatment for it in the past. The judge wanted to know if Johns' previous attorney had ever sought an evaluation or why she did not submit one to the court in Johns' defense.
While Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance Russell expressed some skepticism about the situation - coming so late in the case, on the verge of sentencing - she granted the second delay.
Johns pleaded guilty in open court on July 10 to eight charges related to the incident: three counts of aggravated assault, aggravated assault strangulation, two counts of giving a false statement and two counts of violation of oath by a police officer. Johns faces up to 40 years in prison, but the prosecution has indicated it would recommend a five year sentence, including two years in prison.
After the multiple delays, the judge finally sentenced Johns, now 33 years old, on Aug. 26, 2019 to 20 years with five to serve.
It was during a September 2016 pursuit of a suspected stolen vehicle that Antraveious Payne got out and immediately surrendered to arriving officers.
Court documents indicated that Payne, who was 15 years old at the time and a passenger in the car, got out of the car, "immediately lying on the pavement with his hands up, showing he clearly did not possess a weapon and did not intend to resist."
According to court records, Johns ran toward Payne and kicked him three times in the head while he was laying on the ground before pressing his knee to the teen's neck.
Payne ended up being knocked unconscious by the assault, the court records said.
Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields terminated Johns' employment July 26, 2017. A grand jury indicted him the following year on Oct. 11, 2018.