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Montana woman accused of pushing husband off cliff pleads not guilty

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 12:12 PM EDT, Sun October 6, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Jordan Linn Graham pleads not guilty to murder, making false statements
  • NEW: She remains released, and her next court date is set for later this month
  • The couple had been married for a little over a week when Cody Johnson fell to his death
  • Police: Graham says she pushed Johnson in the back as they argued while hiking

(CNN) -- A Montana woman pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges Friday, three months after she allegedly pushed her newlywed husband off a cliff as they hiked through a national park.

Jordan Linn Graham was arraigned Friday in a U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana, about 130 miles south of where her newlywed husband Cody Johnson fell to his death on July 7.

A federal grand jury on Thursday charged Graham with first- and second-degree murder and making false statements.

On Friday, she was read those charges but waived a reading of the indictment, according to a court document. She subsequently pleaded not guilty on all three counts, was released as she had been before, and her next court appearance was set for October 15.

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The entire proceeding took about four minutes.

A call placed by CNN to the federal public defender's office representing Graham was not immediately returned Friday afternoon, though her attorney has previously said the groom's death was an accident.

Johnson and Graham had been married for a little more than a week when Cody Johnson died on a hiking trail in Glacier National Park.

An affidavit supporting the charges against Graham states that she told police she decided to travel with Johnson to the hiking trail the evening of July 7 and an argument ensued.

"Graham stated their argument intensified. At one point in time during their arguing, Graham turned and began to walk away. She stated Johnson grabbed her by the arm," reads the affidavit.

Graham said she then turned around and removed his hand.

"Graham stated she could have just walked away, but due to her anger, she pushed Johnson with both hands in the back and as a result, he fell face first off the cliff," according to the affidavit.

Michael Donahoe, Graham's lawyer, said last month that Johnson pinned his wife down at one point during their argument. The final part of their fight -- ending with Johnson falling off the cliff -- was "all in one motion, the grabbing and pushing," according to Donahoe.

Johnson's body was found several days later.

The affidavit also states that Graham texted a friend that same night her husband died, saying in the message that she was going to talk to Johnson about having "second thoughts."

Graham texted, "Oh well, I am about to talk to him."

Her friend responded, "I'll pray for you guys."

Graham then replied, "Dead serious, if u don't hear from me at all again tonight, something happened," according to a court document filed in the case.

The case is being handled in federal court because the death occurred inside a national park.

CNN's John Branch contributed to this report.

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