- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Lee Boyd Malvo was once so close to convicted Washington-area sniper John Allen Muhammad that he called his older, unrelated accomplice “Dad.” But more than three years after they were arrested for the shootings, any father-son devotion appears to be gone.

Malvo is prepared to testify for the prosecution at Muhammad’s trial in six 2002 Maryland sniper killings, for which he likely will plead guilty, a source familiar with the case said yesterday. In return, Malvo would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Separately, Muhammad indicated that he probably will testify in his own defense, telling the judge, “It is very likely Muhammad could get up on the stand.”

A formal plea deal with Malvo hasn’t been reached yet, and the source said that if Malvo testifies, it would probably come at the end of the five-week trial that began Monday with jury selection. The source requested anonymity because the deal was not complete.

Malvo’s attorneys did not return calls seeking comment, and Montgomery County prosecutors would not comment on the possible plea agreement.

Muhammad, who is defending himself, was told of the development yesterday morning by his standby attorney before jury selection resumed for a second day.

J. Wyndal Gordon said Muhammad was not surprised, because Malvo is on both Muhammad’s witness list and the prosecution’s list. Mr. Gordon said Malvo would not be credible if he cuts a deal with prosecutors.

“He’s not going to be the star witness for the prosecution,” Mr. Gordon said.

As jury selection continued, Muhammad became irritated at what he perceived to be Circuit Judge James Ryan’s too-easy acceptance of prospective jurors who said they already had formed an opinion about the case.

Almost all of the more than 90 people the judge questioned through midday yesterday said they had formed such an opinion; those who said they still could render a fair and impartial verdict were chosen for a smaller pool from which the 12 jurors and four alternates will be selected tomorrow.

Muhammad asked Judge Ryan to question prospective jurors’ more closely about their opinions, which he said aren’t likely to change during the trial.

“In my experience, I’ve learned a lot about human beings, and human beings just don’t flip-flop like that on a moment’s notice,” he said.

Judge Ryan agreed to probe more deeply and subsequently excused several persons who said they had irrevocably made up their minds.

Relatives of sniper victim Conrad E. Johnson said yesterday that a man who yelled obscenities at Muhammad in court Monday and claimed to be his cousin was not related to the family. Muhammad cited the incident in asking Judge Ryan to exclude victims’ family members from the gallery because the jury could be swayed “if they start crying or having an outburst.” Judge Ryan refused.

Muhammad, 45, and Malvo, 21, were convicted of separate Virginia sniper shootings; Muhammad was sentenced to death while Malvo got a life term. Both were moved to Maryland last year to face trial for the six killings in Montgomery County. Neither faces the death penalty in Maryland.

Muhammad is acting as his own lawyer in the trial in Montgomery County, where the three-week shooting spree in October 2002 began and ended. Ten persons were killed and three others wounded in Maryland, Virginia and the District. The pair have also been linked to killings in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Washington state.

Malvo has shown a willingness to work with prosecutors in the past. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to a sniper shooting in Spotsylvania County, Va., and was given a life term. Malvo’s Virginia attorneys have said he was prepared to plead guilty and testify against Muhammad before Muhammad’s first trial in 2003, but the deal fell through.

Muhammad’s acting as his own lawyer sets up the scenario of the one-time father figure cross-examining his former protege. Muhammad also wants to call Malvo as a witness in his defense case.

If he testifies for the prosecution, Malvo will give details about the sniper shootings and his complex relationship with Muhammad, the source said.

• AP Writer David Dishneau in Rockville contributed to this story.

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