- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2003

Charges that sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad made racist and anti-American statements and forged passports last year are irrelevant to the government’s case against him, according to defense arguments in court papers made public yesterday.

In court filings earlier this week, Prince William County prosecutors said Mr. Muhammad told others that “America got what it deserved” on September 11. That charge was one among many that prosecutors said they plan to use against the suspect at sentencing if he is convicted of capital murder for the shooting Oct. 9 of Dean Harold Meyers at a gas station in Manassas.

Prosecutors also said the suspect was an unindicted co-conspirator on a federal charge of passport fraud in December 2002, that he mugged an elderly man in Arizona in 2002, that he killed Keenya Cook in Tacoma, Wash., in February 2002, that he shot up a Tacoma synagogue in 2002 and that he killed Million Waldemarian in Atlanta in September 2002.

He is also charged with maliciously wounding Rupinder Oberoi in Silver Spring Sept. 21, an Oct. 2 property shooting in Wheaton, the killing Oct. 2 of James Martin, 55, in Wheaton and the killing of James “Sonny” Buchanan, 39, in Rockville on Oct. 3.

In court papers, Mr. Muhammad’s attorneys, Jonathan Shapiro and Peter D. Greenspun, argued that prosecutors must give them more information on these charges so they can prepare a defense.

“The defense has received no discovery about these events — no forensic evidence, no police reports, no physical evidence … nothing. We are completely unable to prepare to meet these allegations,” they wrote. They asked the judge to order prosecutors to turn over dates, locations, forensic reports and names of witnesses.

In the court documents, the attorneys argued that even if the charges were true, many are irrelevant to the local case.

“Being charged as an unindicted coconspirator is not even an ‘act’; making ‘racist’ and ‘anti-American statements’ is not only protected speech, but is completely irrelevant to the charges before the court and is no indicator of violence,” they wrote.

Prosecutors did not return telephone calls seeking comment yesterday.

Mr. Shapiro declined to discuss the motion yesterday.

During the penalty phase, prosecutors can present evidence to prove aggravating factors necessary for a death sentence, particularly whether Mr. Muhammad poses a danger or his actions fit the legal definition of “vileness.”

Mr. Muhammad’s attorneys are also frustrated that the prosecutors’ filing was made public when it was filed Monday. They say disclosures will make it even more difficult to select an impartial jury.

Mr. Muhammad, 42, and fellow suspect Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, have been linked to the string of random shootings that left 10 persons dead and three injured last October in the Washington area. Both men have been linked to at least six other shootings around the country before the incidents in the Washington area.

Mr. Malvo is charged with the fatal shooting Oct. 14 of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, outside a Home Depot store in Falls Church.

Both trials have been moved out of the area. Mr. Muhammad’s Oct. 14 trial has been moved to Virginia Beach, and Mr. Malvo’s Nov. 10 trial has been moved to Chesapeake.

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