War Machine makes initial appearance in Las Vegas court

Prosecutors added several new charges against mixed martial artist War Machine on Wednesday, with allegations of attempted murder and sexual assault stretching over the course of more than a year.

The former Bellator MMA and Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter, also known as Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver, made an initial court appearance in a Las Vegas Wednesday.

The new charges against Koppenhaver stem back as far as May 2013, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth.

Justice of the Peace Melanie Tobiasson said she would address the defendant as Koppenhaver throughout the proceedings and ordered him held without bail.

Outside the courtroom, Koppenhaver’s lawyer, Brandon Sua, said Koppenhaver had legally changed his name to War Machine to avoid a lawsuit, “and nothing more than that,” though he intended to go by Koppenhaver in court.

“The public, as well as the people, will understand that War Machine is a character,” Sua said. “He is an MMA fighter. He is controversial. And people need to understand where to draw that line from his character as War Machine and a person as Jon Koppenhaver, because that’s who he is.”

After a weeklong, two-state search, Koppenhaver was arrested in a Simi Valley, Calif., hotel in connection with the Aug. 8 beating of his porn star ex-girlfriend Christy Mack and her friend Corey Thomas, police said.

Las Vegas police said Koppenhaver attacked Mack, 23, and Thomas in her home near the Las Vegas National golf course about 1:30 a.m. Koppenhaver burst into the home and accused Mack of cheating on him before assaulting Thomas, according to a police report.

Last month, Koppenhaver choked and punched Thomas for nearly 10 minutes before telling him to leave and instructing Thomas not to call police, according to the report.

Mack dialed 911 while Thomas was being attacked and then hid the phone.

After Thomas left, Koppenhaver turned his anger towards Mack, the report said.

He began punching her as they went into a bathroom before he forced her to take a shower, according to the report.

Mack ended up on the floor, where Koppenhaver groped her and threatened to rape her, she told police.

He then threatened Mack with a dull knife, holding it to her head before he went into the kitchen, alluding he was getting a sharper knife “to finish the job,” the report said. That’s when she escaped and alerted neighbors.

Mack’s eyes were swollen shut after the assault. She suffered a blowout fracture of her left eye and several other broken bones in her face, two missing teeth, a lacerated liver, broken ribs and serious bruising in several places.

Mack has undergone several oral surgeries because of her injuries and likely will endure further operations in a “long haul” to recovery, Bluth said.

Koppenhaver, who originally faced nine charges, now faces 32 counts, including attempted murder, sexual assault, battery, coercion, preventing or dissuading a witness or victim from reporting a crime, and first-degree kidnapping resulting in substantial bodily harm. The new charges also involve Mack and Thomas as the victims, Bluth said.

The fighter is due in court Oct. 17. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said that after further investigation prosecutors learned there about more “incidents of criminal conduct.”

He declined to go into detail about the allegations.

“It’s a serious case,” Wolfson said. “We’ve alleged serious charges. The accusations are serious.”

Wolfson said he met with Mack.

“She’s ready to testify,” Wolfson said. “She’s ready to come into court and tell what happened.

Both Koppenhaver and Mack have posted on Twitter about the incident last month, with Koppenhaver claiming self defense.

In a tweet on Aug. 10, Koppenhaver said, “I’m not a bad guy, I went to surprise my gf, help her set up her show and to give her an engagement ring and ended up fighting for my life.”

Mack posted photos of her battered face and thigh.

“We can’t control what defendants, victims, witnesses or anybody posts on social media, but at the end of the day social media is not the evidence,” Wolfson said. “The evidence is going to be presented in a court of law.”

He added, “I’m very confident in the strength of our case.”

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompker.

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