LOS ANGELES – LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge has yet to render a verdict in a case against a man accused of stalking Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson, but indicated the suspect's alleged actions weren't innocent.
In rejecting a defense motion to dismiss charges against Robert O'Ryan, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor determined the Florida native's efforts to meet Johnson raised doubts.
"I have to conclude that Mr. O'Ryan ... engaged in actions not simply of a man trying to win over, or woo, a girl," Pastor said.
The judge's remarks came after three days testimony and evidence that detailed how O'Ryan drove last March from Florida to Los Angeles in the hopes of meeting Johnson, who was competing on "Dancing with the Stars."
In his trunk was a loaded shotgun. In a hollowed out book underneath the driver's seat — a loaded handgun. In other places scattered around his aging Honda Accord, O'Ryan had duct tape, a bulletproof vest, a knife, zip ties and numerous writings address to Johnson.
It didn't matter that O'Ryan didn't bring any of those things onto the studio lot where Johnson was performing the day he was arrested, Pastor said. "There was a credible threat."
Pastor noted that O'Ryan lied to Alabama police about having weapons in his car during a traffic stop early in his cross-country trek. O'Ryan continued his journey to meet Johnson even after having a car crash in Arizona.
"Apparently, nothing was going to thwart him from his goal," Pastor said.
Prosecutors have argued that O'Ryan harbored a dangerous obsession to meet and marry Johnson, who was 17 at the time. O'Ryan, 36, faces felony burglary and stalking charges and two counts of misdemeanor weapons violations. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison and two years in jail. He waived a jury trial, making Pastor the sole decider of his fate.
Judith Greenberg, a public defender representing O'Ryan, argued that her client never intended to harm the gymnast. She recounted how O'Ryan, 36, was a well-educated man who in recent years had succumbed to a mental illness. She said he grew to believe he was destined to marry Johnson after seeing her compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she won a gold and three silver medals.
Pastor's remarks came hours after hearing from both Johnson and O'Ryan.
Johnson took the witness stand for 23 minutes and testified about her fear of the man she had never seen in person before Thursday. She recounted being told about him and the weapons after performing one night on "Dancing with the Stars."
O'Ryan's arrest nearly prompted her to abandon the show and move back to Iowa. Instead she stayed and won the competition.
The 18-year-old was composed throughout her testimony, her voice breaking only when prosecutor Wendy Segall showed her a large knife found in O'Ryan's car.
O'Ryan did not take the witness stand, but Segall played a 90 minute interview conducted by police days after his arrest. O'Ryan is heard explaining how he communicated with Johnson through ESP beginning in the Beijing games and that he came to Los Angeles to save their "relationship."
Asked why he had all the weapons, O'Ryan explained they were for protection because he believed Johnson was in danger. Reluctantly, he admitted to detectives that he would use the weapons if necessary, but only to protect, not harm, the athlete.
But he acknowledged he was intent on meeting Johnson. "I got to the point where I was desperate enough to hop a fence," he told police.