Former mixed martial arts standout War Machine — who was convicted of sexually assaulting and kidnapping his ex-porn star girlfriend — was sentenced on Monday to life in prison with possibility of parole after 36 years.
The fighter, who legally changed his name from Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver during his MMA career, had faced a life sentence without parole following his conviction in March for brutally attacking ex-girlfriend Christine Mackinday — better known as former porn star Christy Mack — and her male companion Corey Thomas after finding the couple in bed in her Las Vegas home.
Appearing before the court Monday, a tearful Mack said that she did not know how long of a sentence would make things “feel right,” but that no amount will stop her from fearing for her life.
“I don’t know if my life will feel complete in 12 years or 30 years and neither do you, but I do know when he gets out he will kill me,” Mack said.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth asked District Judge Elissa Cadish to sentence Koppenhaver to 32 years to life in prison.
Prior to being formally sentenced, Koppenhaver addressed the court, saying he regretted the attack every day and that something was “not right” in his head, “plain and simple.” He also asked Cadish if she received a letter he sent to the judge.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t seriously regret all of the things that I did,” Koppenhaver said. “I was a very, very lost and very empty person.”
Defense attorney Jay Leiderman focused on Koppenhaver’s childhood, saying the former fighter had witnessed his mother get repeatedly abused by his stepfather. Leiderman, who said Koppenhaver suffered brain injuries and used steroids during his fighting career, had sought the minimum sentence of 16 years in prison.
“He channeled all his rage into fighting, and the fighting became not enough,” Leiderman told Cadish.
When handing down the sentence, Cadish told the 35-year-old defendant that she didn’t think he was a “monster.”
“I think you have done a lot of good things in the world, but there are consequences and I have to look out for the well-being of the community,” Cadish said.A jury of six men and six women had deadlocked on two attempted murder charges against Koppenhaver, who was also acquitted of burglary with a deadly weapon, sexually motivated coercion and battery with intent to commit sexual assault.
Prosecutors said the Koppenhaver beat Mack, 25, for nearly two hours during the August 2014 attack before she was able to escape and get help. At one point during the attack, Mack said Koppenhaver told her, “Now I have to kill you. I’ve gone too far.”
Mack testified during a two-week trial that she was clothed in bed with Thomas — who told jurors he had been dating Mack for about two months at the time — when Koppenhaver stormed into her home and assaulted the couple. She was later treated for several serious injuries, including a broken nose, lacerated liver, two lost teeth and a fractured rib.
War Machine apologized to Mack directly in a lengthy statement posted to Twitter one week after his conviction, saying he was finally at peace after learning he had faced up to life in prison without parole. He also invited Mack to visit him in prison.
Koppenhaver, whose last MMA fight was in 2013, said the life sentence he faced behind bars was not “too high a price” for his actions, and begged for Mack’s forgiveness.
Mack has said the emotional damage following the attack has been as severe as the injuries she sustained.
“I never looked at him except when I was asked to identify him,” Mack told HBO during her first post-trial interview in April, adding that she had a total of 18 bones broken near her eye during the attack.
“He had mouthed that he loved me and that was extremely difficult,” Mack said. “And I began bawling immediately. Because, for a long time, I did feel, you know, still emotionally connected to him.”