In U.S. District Court in Portland

A 31-year-old Warm Springs man, Mark Kevin Johnson Jr., pleaded guilty Aug. 6 in the U.S. District Court in Portland to assault by strangulation.

Craig Gabriel, assistant U.S. attorney, who is prosecuting the case, said that Johnson assaulted his wife by strangling her on April 5, in Warm Springs.

"Specifically, he grabbed the victim's neck and choked her," said Gabriel. "He used enough force to impede her breathing and blood circulation."

The assault, which was witnessed by two young children, is a felony, that carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

After the incident was reported to police by a 911 call, Johnson fled the scene. Even though he was not in custody, he was charged in the U.S. District Court, and an arrest warrant was issued in May.

Johnson was arrested in Madras June 6, and has been in the custody of the U.S. Marshal's Service since then. He has a prior conviction of fourth-degree assault, witnessed by a minor child, from 2011 in Jefferson County.

Recently, Gabriel said, "While he was in jail, he attempted to tamper with a witness, so the government will be recommending a longer prison sentence because of his attempts to obstruct justice."

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 15, 2015, before U.S. District Court Judge Anna J. Brown.

The case is the first assault by strangulation prosecution in the state of Oregon since the statute was passed by U.S. Congress in 2013, as part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. Studies have shown that strangulation is a significant risk factor in attempted or completed homicides by men against their female domestic partners.

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