Man convicted in Charleston officer’s death sentenced
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The man convicted of shooting and killing a Charleston Police officer in December of 2020 will spend four decades behind bars.
Joshua Phillips, 40, was sentenced Wednesday, receiving the maximum sentence of 40 years for the charge of second-degree murder.
Officer Johnson was shot on December 1, 2020, while responding to a traffic complaint.
Emotional impact statements were read in court Wednesday by Johnson’s mother, sister and friend. All three women asked Judge Jennifer Bailey to give Phillips the maximum sentence of 40 years.
One of officer Johnson’s closest friends addressed the court first, saying Phillips ‘deprived this world of the most beautiful soul.’
“To know her was to love her, but for her to love you was nothing short of extraordinary,” said Erin Simon, Johnson’s friend. “Mr. Phillips made the selfish and conscious decision to deprive Cassie Johnson of the most precious of gifts - life.”
Johnson’s sister called her one of the best people she had ever known.
“Cassie was a bright light in this world, and it is now a darker place with her gone.”
“I can honestly say that Joshua Phillips has ruined my life,” said Johnson’s older sister. “It’s been 19 months since I’ve been able to speak to my sister and I have a lifetime to go. Joshua Philips stole a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a cousin, a friend and an amazing officer from this community.”
Prior to his sentencing Wednesday, Phillips spoke to the court saying, “I’m sorry for the grief I’ve caused. If I could trade places with her, I would.”
Before the judge issued her ruling, Phillips’ attorney asked Judge Bailey to consider home confinement as the sentencing.
During her statement, Cassie Johnson’s mother, Cheryl Johnson, addressed the notion of the possibility of home confinement by saying, “my daughter didn’t get home confinement. She’s confined to a six by six grave in Sissonville.”
“My daughter didn’t get home confinement. She’s confined to a six by six grave in Sissonville.”
Cheryl spoke about Cassie’s many accomplishments and how proud she was of her daughter, painting a stark comparison between her life and the man who killed her.
“She accomplished more in her short 28 years than Mr. Phillips ever did in his 40 on this earth. Cassie will live on forever in the hearts and minds of the people who knew her and loved her and all the people who were touched by her service to the City of Charleston. You (Phillips) will be forgotten when the cell doors slam shut,” said Cheryl.
“My hope for Mr. Phillips is for every day left in your miserable life you see beautiful Cassie’s face and vividly remember how you threw your pitiful life away for 63 pills. You intentionally murdered a beautiful person for 63 pills.”
Johnson’s mother wasn’t the only one in the courtroom Wednesday drawing a comparison between Johnson’s life of service and Phillips’ wasted potential. Judge Bailey said she based her ruling on the ‘striking’ contrast.
“We have a young woman with goals and passion for life. She had goals that she made and she kept. In fact, I say she surpassed those goals,” said Judge Bailey. “And then we have an individual who didn’t bother to complete an education, an opportunity to attend college. Didn’t complete it, came up with no skill set. No means of support and no indication that there’s a contribution to society in any way.”
“While she (officer Johnson) is setting a path of success and commitment to be a public servant, he (Phillips) chooses a life of illegal conduct, just on every level.
Judge Bailey said Wednesday the contrast between Phillips’ and Johnson was made most apparent by Phillips’ decision to drive away from the scene after shooting Johnson.
“What does he do? He jumps in his vehicle leaving her there. Not attempting to call a soul and with his weapon in hand. Drives off from the scene of this woman lying on the pavement. Somebody wrote and said exactly what is another contrast. If he had been on the ground bleeding to death, Cassie would have done everything in her power to save his life."
Before leaving the stand, Johnson’s mother turned toward the man who killed her daughter and told him she forgave him.
“I know if I don’t forgive you I can’t be forgiven and I’ll never see her again and that’s not going to happen,” said Cheryl. “I’m going to see her again.”
As part of the sentencing, Phillips will pay restitution of $8,000.
Mayor Goodwin and Chief of Police Hunt released a joint statement Wednesday regarding the sentencing of Joshua Phillips:
“Today’s sentencing can hopefully give some closure to the family of Cassie Johnson, her friends, our brothers and sisters in the Charleston Police Department and the entire Charleston community. This has been a long and painful process, but all along we have maintained faith and trust in the justice system and today is no exception. Our job now is to continue to honor the legacy of our fallen sister and work to live up to the high standards Cassie set as a Charleston police officer. We will never forget the passion and honor Cassie brought to her job protecting Charleston and we promise to strive every day to live up to those expectations.”
In the trial last month, the jury saw body camera footage showing the moments leading up to the shooting.
In the days that followed that fatal day, tributes to Cassie’s life started popping up across the city and a memorial service drew thousands as well as brothers and sisters in blue from across the country.
Now, even the road where she died is named in her honor.
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