- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

A Prince William County Circuit Court judge appointed a second public defender to sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad yesterday during a 10-minute-long hearing in Manassas.
Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. appointed attorney Jonathan Shapiro to Mr. Muhammad's defense team, which already includes attorney Peter Greenspun, who was appointed earlier this week.
Mr. Greenspun, most known for representing sportscaster Marv Albert on Felony sodomy charges, told reporters after the hearing that people should not to assume Mr. Muhammad's guilt before trial.
Appearing on the steps of Prince William County Courthouse, Mr. Greenspun blamed the "cowards in law enforcement" for leaking sensitive details about the sniper investigation to reporters.
"This case is one of the most serious matters that can be brought before the criminal justice system," he said. "It is crucial in this case that this matter be tried in the courtroom, not in front of the courthouse steps."
Mr. Muhammad, 41, faces capital murder charges in the Oct. 9 death of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg, Md. Mr. Meyers was gunned down while pumping gas at the Battlefield Sunoco station just north of Manassas.
The suspect wore an orange prison-issue jumpsuit to yesterday's hearing and spoke only to answer questions from Judge Millette. "Yes sir," Mr. Muhammad said when asked whether he needed court-appointed counsel.
Judge Millette scheduled another hearing for Dec. 12 to set a trial date. Prince William County prosecutor Paul B. Ebert has said he does not expect the trial to begin for about a year. Under the speedy trial law, Mr. Muhammad has a right to a trial by April 7.
Mr. Muhammad and 17-year-old John Lee Malvo were transferred to Prince William County and Fairfax County, respectively, after U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft decided last week those were the best of the six jurisdictions in which the shootings occurred to prosecute the suspects.
Virginia laws provide the most opportunities to obtain the death penalty. The state allows the execution of 17-year-olds and has put to death 86 persons since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, more than any state except Texas.
A .223-caliber rifle found in the possession of Mr. Muhammad, an ex-soldier and Gulf war veteran, and Mr. Malvo, a Jamaican citizen, when they were arrested Oct. 24 has been ballistically linked to the sniper spree that killed 10 persons and wounded three others in Maryland, Virginia and the District last month.
Mr. Greenspun said leaks to reporters about statements Mr. Malvo made during a 6-hour-long interview by Fairfax County investigators last week was an attempt to "to taint the jury pool [and] seal public perception" about the suspects.
Mr. Malvo reportedly confessed to being the triggerman in several of the sniper shootings. His attorney says the interrogation was unconstitutional and statements that were made should be tossed out of court before trial.
Mr. Malvo's court-appointed guardian, Todd Petit, said that when he went to Fairfax County police headquarters during the interrogation and requested that it be stopped, police told him they would pass on the request and ordered him to leave.
"To question a juvenile for seven hours certainly raises questions about whether they're trying to make sure justice is served here or whether they're just trying to get a conviction," Mr. Petit said.
Court officials have declined to comment on Mr. Malvo's case because he is a juvenile. But one source familiar with the case told The Washington Times that Mr. Petit had no right to ask for the interrogation to be stopped because a judge did not officially appoint him as a guardian until after the interrogation had ended.
Mr. Malvo is being held in the Fairfax County jail awaiting a Dec. 5 hearing.
Meanwhile, a man who was seen with Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo on the Caribbean island of Antigua in the spring of 2001 is being held on $50,000 bond in New York, according to published reports yesterday.
Federal law enforcement authorities said Peter John Gianquinto Jr., 53, was arrested Nov. 5 in Manhattan on passport fraud charges by officials with the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
The Times reported last month that Mr. Muhammad is the focus of an ongoing probe in Antigua into accusations he financed his nomadic lifestyle and, in part, the sniper killing spree by smuggling illegal aliens from the Caribbean into the United States.
The Associated Press reported that Mr. Gianquinto's criminal record includes numerous arrests on fraud and larceny charges and two felony convictions, according to an affidavit filed by federal investigators. He has used at least six aliases, the affidavit also stated.

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