- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

Prince George's County State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson yesterday filed charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder against sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo in the Oct. 7 wounding of a 13-year-old boy in Bowie.
"The family of the victim need to have their day in court," Mr. Johnson said during a press conference. "I believe these are local charges, and it would be more appropriate for these to be tried on the local level.
"We understand there are a number of jurisdictions that have charges of murder," he said, but Prince George's County residents "have a tremendous interest in this case."
The unidentified boy survived the shooting outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School, but remains in serious condition at a Washington hospital. He was gunned down after being dropped off at the school by his aunt.
The teenager was shot in the chest, struck by a single shot that has since been matched through ballistics tests to a .223-caliber rifle found in a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice in which Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo were arrested Oct. 24.
The Prince George's County charges are the latest in a series of criminal accusations to be brought against the two men after a 23-day shooting spree that left 10 persons dead and three others seriously wounded in Virginia, Maryland and the District.
Murder charges also have been brought against the pair in Alabama, and a weapon found in the Chevrolet during their arrest at a rest stop on Interstate 70 in Frederick County, Md., was linked yesterday by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to a fatal shooting in Louisiana.
Mr. Johnson said discussions were continuing among various jurisdictions and the federal government about who would first get to take the matter to trial.
"I believe that those discussions should end very soon," Mr. Johnson said, adding that "the citizens of this country, as well as Prince George's County, need to know where these cases are going."
Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday said a federal investigation into the shootings was continuing, focusing on the possibility that others may also have been involved and that Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo might have committed other crimes.
"We will proceed deliberatively, cautiously and not jump to any conclusions," Mr. Ashcroft said. "The facts and the evidence will determine the final outcome, and we intend to follow the facts wherever they may lead."
The Justice Department is considering whether the federal government should take a lead role in the prosecution or allow the states to proceed on pending criminal indictments and warrants. If convicted, Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo could face death sentences, depending on where the trial is held.
Meanwhile, several law enforcement sources yesterday said federal prosecutors interfered with the interrogation of Mr. Muhammad on at least five occasions before taking him before a federal magistrate. They said Mr. Muhammad had not volunteered any information about the sniper attacks, but interrogators had hoped to keep him talking so he might provide incriminating evidence.
"I didn't expect that interrogation to end in one day," one source said. "I think people would understand why we would want to talk to him overnight. There were some interruptions. It is unfortunate, because with this type of guy you could have tag teamed off and on.
"It could have gone on for 20 hours," the source said. "As long as he's talking, why stop him?"
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio interrupted the interrogation on the orders of the Justice Department and the White House, preventing a possible confession in the shootings by Mr. Muhammad.
Mr. DiBiagio called the accusation "false," adding in a terse statement that there had been no outside influence in the decision to interrupt the questioning to take Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo before a federal magistrate in Baltimore.
Senior Justice Department officials said Mr. Muhammad volunteered no information about the shootings and never made an offer to confess. They said Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo invoked their constitutional right not to speak to task force investigators without a lawyer present and were taken before a federal magistrate for their initial court hearings.
"They weren't about to confess to anything," said one Justice Department official. "The short interview that task force members did have with the two men was totally nonproductive."

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