Woman cries, pleads guilty in boyfriend's 2014 death
Nearly three years ago, Tasha Yolanda Phillips struck her boyfriend, Martegus “Pale” Johnson, with a car in a Macon post office parking lot, killing him.
On Tuesday, Phillips pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter as part of a deal that caps her prison sentence at 15 years, with an additional term on probation.
Her lawyer, Debra Gomez, said the 33-year-old Phillips was pleading guilty because it was in her best interest.
Phillips previously had been charged with murder.
Gomez has filed court documents on Phillips’ behalf indicating that she’d planned to claim a “battered person’s syndrome” defense had the case gone to trial. She’s previously said her client was diagnosed with battered person’s syndrome and post traumatic stress disorder.
Phillips has contended that Johnson was violent toward her in the year leading up to his death, including an incident in which he shoved a gun into her mouth.
Phillips wept as she entered her plea during a brief hearing in Bibb County Superior Court.
Her sentencing is set for next week. At that hearing, the judge will hear arguments and possibly revise her preliminary sentence of 15 years in prison followed by five years on probation.
Authorities have said surveillance video showed Phillips’ black Ford Explorer making a U-turn May 9, 2014, and the car striking Johnson, 24, in the post office parking lot on Pio Nono Avenue.
When police arrived, Phillips told officers she and Johnson had met men to buy cocaine and that she’d been hit in the head with a gun, Chief Assistant District Attorney Nancy Scott Malcor said during Tuesday’s hearing.
Phillips went on to tell police that Johnson had been run over by the drug dealers after he’d gotten out of the car to protect her, Malcor said.
A person who lived near the post office told police that the car parked in the parking lot wasn’t the same one Phillips had been driving during the incident. Authorities later found the Explorer behind a home on Duncan Avenue where Phillips lived.
The owner of the car at the post office, a friend of Phillips, told police Phillips had called and asked her to retrieve the Explorer after Johnson was struck. Phillips’ children had been in the car.
Police also talked with a witness who’d been with the couple shortly before Johnson died. The man said Phillips and Johnson had argued in the car and Johnson struck her in the head, Malcor said.
The witness and Johnson then got out of the car.
“That was the last time that witness saw the victim alive,” Malcor said.