HAMMOND | It took a federal jury less than an hour Thursday afternoon to convict Martin Jonassen of kidnapping and obstruction of justice in a case involving his adult daughter.
Jonassen, a Kansas man in his late 50s and a self-described Sovereign Citizen, represented himself in the trial. The FBI has identified the group as a domestic terrorism threat.
The jury returned its swift verdict at 12:30 p.m., a time period of less than an hour that included being served lunch.
Jonassen was convicted of taking his daughter from Missouri to his property in Michigan and she eventually escaped from at a hotel in Portage.
In September, Jonassen became jealous his daughter was seeing an older man and took her against her will, heading toward Michigan.
The adult daughter escaped their Portage hotel room and sprinted across U.S. 20 naked, darting into a liquor store and begging for help. Surveillance footage showed her father chasing and dragging her out of the store, shoving her into his car and driving away.
Portage police were just a block away when the 911 call came in, stopped Jonassen’s car and arrested him.
The obstruction of justice charge stemmed from what assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster called Jonassen’s “relentless campaign” of letters and phone calls to persuade his daughter to change her story or not testify in court.
“He offered her money, property and freedom from him and security,” Koster told the jury. “He forced her to do unspeakable things no child should be exposed to by a parent.”
In 75 recorded phone calls to his wife from jail, Jonassen also appealed to family members to get his daughter to retract her statements to the police and emergency-room nurse.
“He asked his sons to get (her) to sign a blank piece of paper, and he would take it from there,” Koster said.
During closing arguments Thursday morning, the silver-haired Jonassen created a theatrical atmosphere in Judge James Moody’s courtroom.
He entered the courtroom carrying a box full of papers and legal pads, dressed in a long-sleeve blue shirt, left untucked in his beige pants and open two buttons at the neck to reveal a white crew-neck T-shirt.
Jonassen repeatedly objected to the government’s 33-minute closing argument, and Moody repeatedly ruled his objections were inappropriate.
When asked by the judge if he was ready to begin his closing arguments, Jonassen said loudly, “I was born unready.”
Moody immediately countered, “That is a stupid, irresponsible statement. I don’t know if you know how serious this case is. Be quiet.”
The Jonassen family, including his daughter, entered the courtroom as Moody was reprimanding the defendant and sat together.
When he saw his adult daughter he had kidnapped, Jonassen mouthed her name and continued to stare at her.
Jonassen’s wife wore a purple print long-sleeved floor-length dress and a small starched white bonnet over her hair that was pulled back in a bun. The Kansas woman sat still during the nearly 90 minutes that included Jonassen’s closing arguments and Moody’s instructions to the jury.
By contrast, his adult daughter was fidgety, her left leg shaking and bouncing, her arms crossed and hugging her torso. Her blond hair was caught up in a bright pink scrunchy.
After the guilty verdict was read, Martin Jonassen’s sister from Michigan said, “I’m glad it’s over and he’s where he needs to be.”