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Joseph Gomm
Joseph Gomm

Inmate pleads guilty in guard’s murder

Edward Muhammad Johnson, 44, the man accused of murdering prison guard Joseph Gomm in 2018, has pleaded guilty to first-degree premeditated murder.

On Friday, Washington County District Court Judge Ellen L. Maas sentenced Johnson to life in prison without the chance for parole.

Gomm, a 16-year veteran at the Department of Corrections, died after being bludgeoned in a workshop at the Stillwater prison’s MINNCOR Industries building. A fellow Corrections officer on scene said he saw Johnson striking Gomm over the head with a hammer.

Johnson was already serving a 29-year sentence for second-degree murder for the 2003 killing of a young paralegal who was living with him.

By the time Gomm was attacked, Johnson had racked up almost 1,700 days in segregation for other violent offenses before the attack the killed Gomm.

Johnson entered his plea several months before he was scheduled for trial, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said Friday. The prosecutor said the plea was not the product of negotiations, but instead appears to be a case of Johnson taking responsibility for his actions.

Without the plea, the case would have gone to trial in March, Orput said.

“I’m grateful that the family was spared the ordeal of sitting through a trial and listening to how their son, in detail, was murdered,” Orput said. “I believe justice will be served with a life sentence without parole.”

Orput said he has no input into the matter, but thinks it is likely that the Department of Corrections will move Johnson out of state going forward, because his assault resulted in the death of a Minnesota Corrections officer.

A Corrections Department spokeswoman said on Friday afternoon that no decision on that has been made, but that “all options are on the table.”

In a brief written statement, Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell called Friday’s verdict and sentence “bittersweet” for his department.

“Though it brings a fitting end to the judicial process, it does not relieve the very real pain and loss experienced by Joe’s immediate family, friends and co-workers,” he said. “Officer Gomm was an honorable public servant not because of how he died, but because of the way he lived—his memory and sacrifice should be forever honored.”

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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