Posted May 23, 2015 by Sydnie Jones in Editorials

UFC 187’s Anthony Johnson’s 2010 lawyer on no contest plea: “That was his and his decision alone.”

Apparently the confusion is catching. Following Dana White’s bout with amnesia regarding Anthony Johnson’s 2010 conviction for domestic violence, Johnson himself claimed ignorance of the no contest plea deal he accepted. Citing confusion, the naivete of youth, and misleading counsel, Johnson said he “…didn’t know that saying no-contest would be taken in the public as, ‘(he) did everything she said.'” Johnson’s lawyer at the time, Michael Cardoza, recalls things differently.

In an interview with ESPN when asked about the 2009 incident and consequent conviction, Johnson also said:

“I didn’t understand the law as much as I should have in 2009. I pled no-contest because that’s what my lawyer told me to do. I wanted it to be over with. The courts kept pushing it back, pushing it back, and I said, ‘Is there any way we can get this done, today?'”

Johnson’s lawyer in that case was successful, high-profile attorney Michael Cardoza, who, at the time, had been practicing almost 30 years. Given that a nolo contendere plea requires, by law, that “the court shall ascertain whether the defendant completely understands that a plea of nolo contendere shall be considered the same as a plea of guilty and that, upon a plea of nolo contendere, the court shall find the defendant guilty,” and that Johnson had such an experienced lawyer, I was skeptical Mr. Cardoza would have left anything unclear to his client.

When I read Johnson’s comments to ESPN to Mr. Cardoza, he emphasized that Johnson said, “I wanted it to be over with.” He also mentioned that when a client pleads no contest, the state of California has a four-page document the defendant must review and sign explaining what that plea entails.

Mr. Cardoza explained: “We never make a client do anything they don’t want to do. That was his and his decision alone. He was advised of everything. He wanted it over with.

“Anthony never accepted responsibility for this; and that is why he entered a no contest plea, which the court of California allows him to do. The judge enters a guilty plea for the record. He wanted this over with, and the DA made him a heck of an offer. They lessened the charge, they lessened the possible punishment by a great amount, it was a good deal, and he seized upon it to avoid going to a jury trial and avoid the cost of a jury trial.  You never know what a jury will do. But the deal was a good deal, it was his choice to take it.

“The District Attorney office’s (deal) was much less than the original charges. The agreed upon plea bargain was a slap on the wrist. He walked out of court with probation and it was over. He got to move on with his career. He never said that he was guilty of this.”

For a plea and sentencing that happened five years ago, Mr. Cardoza seems to remember the details of Anthony Johnson’s case better than Anthony Johnson does.

In the same ESPN interview, which mentions that “police reports stated the woman suffered a scrape above one eye and facial swelling and had said Johnson “slammed her to the ground,”” Johnson also had this to say:

“We were both just young. Neither one of us got physical with each other. We were just doing whatever we could to get under each other’s skin. To this day, we still talk. We’ve both apologized.”

ESPN’s Brett Okamoto apparently did not ask for clarification on how, if neither ‘got physical,’ she ended up with injuries when police investigated the incident. Presumably, Johnson would have just been confused about that, too, since he was just a young thing who had no idea what he was doing.

Tonight, you can pay to watch a man accused by three women of domestic violence and convicted for the same fight for the light heavyweight title in world’s biggest MMA promotion.

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Sydnie Jones