HAMMOND | In a rare set of circumstances, the defendant in a kidnapping case asked his alleged victim questions under direct examination during his federal trial.
Martin Jonassen, a Kansas man in his late 50s, is on trial for allegedly kidnapping his daughter and obstructing justice by offering her money, property and a mo-ped in exchange for her changing her testimony.
Jonassen is a self-described Sovereign Citizen, part of an anti-government group the FBI has identified as a domestic terrorism threat. Because Jonassen insisted on representing himself, he called and questioned his own witnesses in his defense Tuesday — including his daughter.
"Do you know I love you?" Jonassen asked her after she took the stand.
Prosecutors objected to the question, and his daughter, who is in her early 20s, did not answer.
"Is there a possibility you wanted to go to Michigan?" Jonassen asked, peering out of glasses he held up to his face, as he looked at her.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she responded.
On Monday, Jonassen's daughter responded to almost all the government's questions — including those asking her to state her name — by saying she didn't remember. Prosecutors accused Jonassen of causing his daughter's surprise responses, as he had sent numerous letters and made about 75 phone calls to her and relatives in attempts to get her to change her statements. Those recorded calls were made from jail in violation of the court's no-contact order.
Senior Judge James Moody ruled to allow prosecutors to enter the daughter's original statements into evidence through law enforcement testimony and reports.
The government accused Jonassen of taking his daughter from Missouri to his property in Michigan, where he sexually abused her prior to the kidnapping. In September, Jonassen allegedly became jealous about his daughter seeing an older man and took her against her will, heading toward Michigan.
His daughter escaped from their Portage hotel room and sprinted across U.S. 20 naked, darting into a liquor store and begging for help. Surveillance footage showed Jonassen chasing and dragging her out of the store, at which point he was arrested.
On Wednesday, an Indiana State Police DNA analyst testified several semen stains belonging to Jonassen were found on the motel sheets. Some DNA from his daughter was also found on the sheet and the rope found tied around her ankles, but no conclusive evidence could be drawn from her sexual assault kit.
As part of his defense, Jonassen called one of his brothers, one of his sisters and three of his sons to testify. He tried asking a range of questions that Moody deemed irrelevant or improper, such as whether they knew they had the right to plead the Fifth Amendment and not answer prosecutors' questions, if the weather was nice and whether gas prices were high.
"If he's guilty, he deserves it," said Jonassen's brother, John, after being released from his subpoena. "And if he's not guilty, he'll be free."
Both the government and Jonassen wrapped up their cases Wednesday. Closing arguments will be heard 9 a.m. Thursday in Moody's courtroom.