UFC, Bellator MMA Vet War Machine Sentenced to Life in Prison in Christy Mack Assault Case

By Jordan Breen Jun 5, 2017

Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator MMA veteran War Machine may spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Clark County District Judge Elissa Cadish on Monday in Las Vegas sentenced the former fighter, born Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver, to life in prison with the possibility of parole for his Aug. 8, 2014 sexual assault and battery of former girlfriend Christine Mackinday, known for her time in the adult entertainment industry as Christy Mack, and her then-boyfriend Corey Thomas.

Koppenhaver, 35, received six separate life sentences on his 29 counts. With the aggregation of the life sentences, he is eligible for parole after 36 years -- in 2053. He will be 71 years old.

"I don't function normally anymore. I live alone now with an advanced security system," said a tearful Mackinday during sentencing. “I don't know if my life will be complete in 20 or 30 years ... when he gets out, he'll kill me.”

On March 20, after two days of deliberation, a jury found Koppenhaver guilty on 29 of 34 possible charges, concluding the two-week trial. The defendant was found not guilty on three counts, while the jury deadlocked on two attempted murder charges. Judge Cadish previously declared mistrials on the attempted murder charges, which would allow Koppenhaver to be retried on those counts. However, the prosecution conditionally waived the charges, unless in the case of a re-trial, whereupon they would be reinstated.

The verdict came four days after Koppenhaver's attorney, Jay Leiderman, conceded his client's guilt on eight charges of domestic battery. In January, Koppenhaver rejected two proposed plea deals, one offering 16 years to life and a separate deal of 18 to 40 years.

According to testimony, Koppenhaver burst into Mackinday's bedroom while the two victims were together and began punching and choking Thomas. After Thomas' escape, Koppenhaver continued a two-hour, sustained attack on Mackinday, who suffered two missing teeth, broken ribs, a fractured eye socket, a lacerated liver and had her hair “sawed off” with a knife.

Koppenhaver was arrested a week later on Aug. 15, 2014, in Simi Valley, California, and has been incarcerated at High Desert State Prison. He nearly ended his life a day less than two months later by attempting to hang himself with a bed sheet attached to the leg of his bunk bed.

At sentencing, Leiderman argued for a new trial, but Cadish said that the defense's motion had not been submitted in a timely manner. Koppenhaver's defense further suggested grounds for a potential new trial on the grounds the defendant was “unconscious” and acting “reflexively” during the events in question.

Koppenhaver rose to MMA prominence in 2007 as a cast member on “The Ultimate Fighter 6,” before winning a memorable, bloody brawl on the show's finale against Jared Rollins. After a 56-second submission loss to Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 84 in May 2008, he was released by the company. He would go onto fight three times for Bellator MMA, losing his last bout in October 2013, when he was choked out by Ron Keslar at Bellator 104.
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