Michael Jerome “Big Smoove” Johnson looked at Superior Court Judge William Rumer and the team that successfully prosecuted him for the 2011 murder of Steve Toms and delivered a message.
“F--- all of you all,” Johnson said late Monday afternoon. “Give me my time and send me back to my cell.”
Johnson was sentenced to life without parole plus 10 years for the murder of Toms, manager of the Gold & Silver Trading Center, and a string of armed robberies.
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Morris “Slim Deezy” Gordon, Johnson’s accomplice in some of the robberies but not the one at the Gold & Silver Trading Center, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on a litany of charges, including multiple counts of armed robbery, kidnapping and assault related to armed robberies in 2012.
Gordon is currently three years into a 10-year sentence on another robbery, and his sentence handed down Monday by Rumer won’t start until he completes that one, the judge said.
Johnson, dressed in a dark suit and wearing rimmed glasses, showed no remorse as he addressed the court. He told his family not to cry, then refused to apologize to Toms’ family and friends, who had spent almost an hour outlining for the judge the pain and terror that Johnson had brought them.
“I don’t want to give y’all the satisfaction of sitting here and crying and saying how sorry I am,” Johnson said. “I am not sorry. I did nothing wrong. I was falsely accused and this whole trial was a railroad.”
Johnson even thanked the media for the extensive coverage of the nearly month-long trial.
“Thank y’all for making my legacy and my name just that much more infamous and notorious,” Johnson said.
He said it was “an honor” to stand trial with Gordon, the only defendant not to take a guilty plea on the rash of armed robberies. Johnson’s statements also came with a warning.
“For every ‘Big Smoove’ you take, for every ‘Slim Deezy’ you take, there is 10 more ready to take the throne,” Johnson said.
The counter to Johnson’s cold and bold statements was the emotion shown by Toms’ only daughter, Robin Lake.
“It is clear you think guns and violence are the keys to success,” Lake said. “... Your thoughts and actions are so violent that it is obvious you have been around nothing but hate your whole life.”
Lake and prosecutor Jennifer Cooley asked the court to lock up Johnson for the remainder of his life.
“Michael Johnson has shown no remorse and no mercy,” Cooley said. “He who has shown no mercy deserves no mercy.”
Lake echoed those words: “I can only hope and pray this court will show you no mercy.”
Lake spent time telling the court about her father, like her a Georgia football fan in a family of Auburn fans.
“Though he was a big guy 6-1 and over 200 pounds with a loud voice, he was a teddy bear,” Lake told the court.
During her 20-minute statement, which she read, her voice broke as she spoke directly to Rumer. She cried as she told the court how she learned of her father’s death. As soon as she got word, she rushed to the store on Gentian Boulevard. At the scene was a deputy coroner whom she knew. She was trying to get inside to see her father.
“He told me, ‘Robin you don’t want to go in there. He’s gone. It’s bad,’” she told the court.
Lake broke down as she described seeing her father’s “cold, lifeless body” at the funeral home.
Bob Upchurch, Gold & Silver Trading Center owner, found Toms’ body on Nov. 15, 2011.
“The horror of that day will never leave me,” he said.
In addition to the conviction of Toms’ murder, Johnson was also sentenced for armed robberies of the 4227 Victory Drive Diamond Exchange on May 5, 2012, and the 5750 Milgen Road Winn-Dixie on April 11, 2012. The 10 years Rumer sentenced Johnson to on top of life in prison without parole came as the result of gun changes stemming from the robberies.
Gordon was sentenced to 10 concurrent 20-year terms for his role in the Diamond Exchange and Winn-Dixie robberies.
Four former defendants in the robberies pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution.
Sidney Person, Xavier Bell and Jockas Gilchrist each admitted joining in the April 11, 2012, robbery of the Milgen Road Winn-Dixie, and each said Johnson and Gordon were key players, with Johnson firing an AK-47 over the store manager’s head and ordering his accomplices to hurry up.
Jamar Warner, now jailed in an unrelated homicide case, testified he served as a lookout at the door as Johnson and Gordon robbed the Diamond Exchange, where Johnson again used an automatic rifle.
The armed robbery ring collapsed when Johnson, Gordon and Warner were arrested for the Aug. 22, 2012, armed robbery at the La Mexicana de Columbus restaurant and grocery at 3305 Victory Drive.
As Rumer handed down his sentences, Johnson showed little to no emotion, but he became defiant when it was all over.
“You’re looking at a bad man,” Johnson said from the side door as the deputies ushered him out of the court.