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Ex-MMA fighter War Machine convicted of assaulting ex-girlfriend

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 20/03/2017 Des Bieler
Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver, also known as War Machine, is shown in court in 2015. © John Locher/Associated Press Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver, also known as War Machine, is shown in court in 2015.

Former MMA fighter War Machine was convicted Monday of 29 counts, including sexual assault and kidnapping, in a case stemming from an August 2014 attack that left his ex-girlfriend and another man bloody and battered. A Las Vegas jury deadlocked on two counts of attempted murder, but Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver, who legally changed his name to War Machine during a career in which he went 14-5 while competing for promotion companies UFC and Bellator, could still face life imprisonment.

Koppenhaver, 35, went by his birth name during the trial, which featured testimony from his ex-girlfriend, former porn actress Christy Mack, and Corey Thomas, the man prosecutors said she was with when the former MMA star burst in on them.

Mack, 24, had told the jury that Koppenhaver’s violence against her increased over the course of their 15-month relationship, culminating in the attack, which left her with a fractured eye socket, a broken nose, missing teeth, leg injuries and a lacerated liver. She testified that an earlier incident, when she said he slammed her face into the dashboard of a vehicle she was trying to leave during an argument, resulted in a black eye, a cut nose, a bite mark on her chin and a chipped tooth.

Mack, whose real name is Christine Mackinday, said that after the earlier incident, Koppenhaver told her, “Now I have to kill you because people saw you trying to escape. Now I have to take you out to the desert and kill you.”

Last week, Koppenhaver’s attorney, Jay Leiderman, conceded guilt on lesser charges in hopes that the jury would not convict his client on the more serious counts. He also acknowledged that Koppenhaver threatened Thomas with violence if the latter went to the police. Thomas, who said that he’d been dating Mack for about two months when the attack occurred, testified that he suffered a broken nose, a dislocated shoulder, scrapes, bruises and bite marks while fighting with Koppenhaver.

Christy Mack is shown testifying against War Machine earlier in March. © Brett Le Blanc/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP Christy Mack is shown testifying against War Machine earlier in March.

Koppenhaver did not testify in his defense. Leiderman said during the trial that his client had suffered brain injuries during his fighting career and that Koppenhaver was using a mixture of antidepressant medication and steroids that could have contributed to dramatic mood swings and what he called “roid rage.”

Mack testified that she frequently saw Koppenhaver use steroids. “I would watch him inject himself,” she said (via the New York Post). “I knew he would take pills every once in awhile.”

Mack also testified that Koppenhaver forced her into sex in May 2014. She said that she escaped her home in the August attack after she saw him grab a knife and heard him say that he had to kill her because he had “gone too far.”

Leiderman described both Koppenhaver and Mack as “damaged people,” and claimed that she had rape fantasies and had asked her former boyfriend to surprise her.

“I think what was important to Ms. Mackinday was that the jury believed her in regards to previous conduct that she never reported,” prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth said (via the AP). “What that says to domestic violence victims is that even if you don’t report it right away, a jury can still believe you.”

Koppenhaver was arrested in California about a week after the attack, and he has been in a Nevada prison for violating terms of his parole, following a 2009 conviction for attempted battery of another woman. Sentencing is scheduled for June 5.

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