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Shawn Johnson testifies in stalker trial

June 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson took the witness stand on Thursday in the trial of her alleged stalker Robert Michael O'Ryan, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.Johnson made it clear immediately how nervous and fearful she was to be in the Los Angeles courtroom. This was the first time she met O'Ryan face-to-face.

Johnson was competing on ABC's hit show "Dancing With the Stars" in 2009 when the stalking incident unfolded. She ended up winning the competition, and she was never in any direct danger.

Authorities caught Robert Michael O'Ryan trying to hop a fence on March 23, 2009, at the CBS studios in the Fairfax district, where "Dancing With the Stars" is produced. Inside his car, police found two loaded guns, a bulletproof vest and some notes written to Johnson. He told security he was there to meet with her.

Johnson testified that she had trouble sleeping at night because of the incident, and her agent also testified that Johnson asked her to spend time with her at night because she was so scared for her safety.

"I didn't know him," Johnson said. "He was a stranger to me. To see somebody had that much kind of obsession, it made me really scared."

The gymnast was questioned about poems O'Ryan allegedly wrote about her, some of which had the athlete's name hyphenated with O'Ryan's. One of the poems, shown in court Tuesday, professed unwavering love for Johnson. "I feel quite lucky," the poem read, "that we fight happy, I want everything to go your way, and this is how I pray, that we will be together to stay .... and no matter what you do, I will always love you."

In a tape of an interview with police played in court Thursday, O'Ryan asks a detective whether he believes in ESP. O'Ryan told the officer he used ESP to communicate with numerous people on television, including rappers Ludacris and Lil Jon and some daytime soap opera stars.

O'Ryan said he started communicating with Johnson telepathically when she competed in the Beijing Olympics.

Prosecutors contend that O'Ryan drove from Jacksonville, Fla., to try to meet Johnson. He is charged with one felony count each of stalking and commercial burglary, along with two misdemeanor counts of carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle in a city.

He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on Monday. He faces four years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday afternoon after three days of testimony and evidence. A judge then rejected a motion by O'Ryan's attorney to dismiss the case.

O'Ryan's attorney, Judith Greenberg, argued prosecutors failed to prove he had any criminal intent by showing up at the studio wearing a top hat, coat and tie. He had left his car, and the weapons, at a parking lot adjacent to the studios.

"All the circumstantial evidence is consistent with someone who did not have any evil intent toward Shawn Johnson or her family," Greenberg said.

O'Ryan waived his right to a jury trial, meaning that the judge is the sole decision-maker in both the guilt and sanity phases.

Eyewitness News reporter John Gregory and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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