Muhammad Gets 6 Life Terms in Md. Trial

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By STEPHEN MANNING
The Associated Press
Thursday, June 1, 2006; 3:28 PM

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- Twice-convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad was sentenced Thursday to six consecutive life terms in prison with no possibility of parole, a sentence prosecutors consider insurance in case his Virginia death sentence is ever overturned.

"You, Mr. Muhammad, have no hope. You have no future. You will spend every day for the rest of your life locked in a cage," Montgomery County Circuit Judge James Ryan said.

Muhammad, 45, showed no emotion as the sentenced was announced. He stood with his arms crossed, looking directly at Ryan. Some in the audience applauded.

After representing himself throughout the monthlong trial, Muhammad chose not to speak at his sentencing. J. Wyndal Gordon, an attorney helping him, said Muhammad told him, "I said everything I wanted to say."

Several relatives of victims spoke before the sentencing, including Nelson Rivera, who described how his young daughter wanted to die so she could be reunited with her mother, Lori Lewis-Rivera.

"He not only killed my wife, he killed me, he killed my daughter and all the rest of the family," Rivera told Ryan.

Muhammad was convicted Tuesday of six counts of murder for six of the 10 deadly sniper attacks that terrorized the Washington area in October 2002. He was already under a death sentence in Virginia for a killing there.

This time, Muhammad's young accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, took the stand for the first time to testify against him. Malvo told jurors how the older man, his one-time mentor, trained him to shoot and drew him into a sinister plan to kill people, including children, indiscriminately.

Jurors deliberated less than five hours before finding Muhammad guilty.

Malvo, sentenced to life in prison in Virginia, had agreed to plead guilty in the Maryland killings. He was not promised leniency but told jurors he wanted to face the man who he said trained him to be a killer.

He called Muhammad a "coward" and, at one point, glared at him, saying: "You took me into your house and you made me a monster."

Muhammad called him "son" and questioned Malvo's credibility, saying the 21-year-old had problems with exaggeration and memory.

He also claimed he was framed by investigators who planted and fabricated evidence and said he was the victim of a broad law enforcement conspiracy.

Muhammad's legal adviser argued to the judge Thursday that Muhammad did not get a fair trial, saying evidence and witnesses that could have proven his innocence were not allowed into the courtroom.

"We came here to search for justice, we came here to seek the truth, to find out what happened in those 23 days in October," he said. "We fell short. I don't think anyone can celebrate the convictions in this matter."

Muhammad could be returned to Virginia's death row as early as Thursday afternoon, according to Darren Popkin, Montgomery County chief deputy sheriff. Malvo likely will remain in Maryland until he formally enters a plea in October.

Other states still have outstanding charges against Muhammad from earlier shootings, including Louisiana and Alabama. It will be up to Virginia whether to send him away again for further prosecution.


© 2006 The Associated Press

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