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updated: 6/8/2010 2:24 PM

Trial begins for accused Shawn Johnson stalker

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  • Former Olympian and Dancing With The Stars celebrity Shawn Johnson responds to a reporters questions before the start of the second day of the women's competition at the U.S. gymnastics championships Aug. 15, 2009, in Dallas.

      Former Olympian and Dancing With The Stars celebrity Shawn Johnson responds to a reporters questions before the start of the second day of the women's competition at the U.S. gymnastics championships Aug. 15, 2009, in Dallas.
    Associated Press

 

LOS ANGELES -- A man accused of stalking Shawn Johnson harbored a dangerous obsession to marry the Olympic gold-medalist, a prosecutor claimed Tuesday.

Robert O'Ryan, 36, sat quietly as prosecutor Wendy Segall described how he drove from Jacksonville, Fla., to Los Angeles in an attempt to meet Johnson.

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At one point in her opening statements in O'Ryan's criminal trial, Segall produced the numerous weapons -- a handgun, shotgun, knife and club -- found in his car, which was searched after he jumped a fence at the studios where Johnson was performing on the reality competition "Dancing with the Stars."

The prosecutor said the guns were loaded at the time of O'Ryan's arrest last March. Segall said he also had duct tape, plastic ties and a bulletproof vest in the car.

O'Ryan has pleaded not guilty to felony stalking and burglary charges and two misdemeanor counts of carrying a concealed weapon. He faces nearly four years in prison and two years in jail if convicted.

On Monday, O'Ryan entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. If a judge rules he is insane, O'Ryan could be sent to a state mental hospital.

His attorney, Judith Greenberg, said in her opening remarks that O'Ryan posed no threat to Johnson. She said O'Ryan developed a mental illness years ago and and had a delusional fascination with the gymnast.

Greenberg said her client didn't try to contact Johnson until he went to the "Dancing with the Stars" set. She also said he thought he needed to protect Johnson, not harm her.

"He also came because the delusions and the voices told him Shawn Johnson was in danger and he needed to protect her," Greenberg said. "He was so impelled and compelled to come here because of the certainty of his beliefs."

Johnson won a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Games. She was not present in court but is expected to testify at the trial, which is expected to last all week. O'Ryan has waived his right to a jury trial, so his fate will be decided solely by a judge.

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