- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lee Boyd Malvo, testifying in a Rockville courtroom yesterday, called his former mentor and convicted sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad a “coward” and said he is offering his side of the 2002 attacks “for the victims, for what it’s worth, if anything.”

“I am not proud of myself, and I’m just trying to make amends, if possible,” said Malvo, 21, at the end of a dramatic day in the trial of Muhammad, who faces the death penalty in six fatal Montgomery County sniper attacks — part of a three-week shooting spree that killed 10 persons in the Washington area.

“I am here just to tell the story, tell the truth, and to face Muhammad,” the sniper’s former apprentice told the jury.

Muhammad, 45, who is acting as his own lawyer in the trial, spent almost an hour late in the day questioning his accomplice and former protege in a series of questions seemingly intended to antagonize Malvo.

“The last time we played basketball, who won?” Muhammad asked.

“You,” said Malvo, glaring.

Earlier, under questioning from the prosecution, Malvo said he would have died for Muhammad at one time, but that after three years in jail, he had changed his mind.

Malvo initially told police that he was the shooter in all the incidents, but yesterday, he said Muhammad pulled the trigger in 10 of the 13 shootings.

Malvo also testified about Muhammad’s plans to escalate their terrorism. He said the sniper wanted to detonate bombs on school buses in Baltimore, shoot a Baltimore police officer and plant explosives at the funeral to kill as many police officers as possible.

Malvo said Muhammad told him that “lives mean nothing” and that the Gulf War veteran wanted to use terror to wreck the area economy.

Malvo said he thought Muhammad’s goal was to reclaim his three children from his ex-wife, Mildred, who had taken them from Bellingham, Wash., to Clinton, Md.

“I tried to explain to him that we should just get the children and leave. I asked, ‘Why?’ And he didn’t answer,” Malvo said. “He said, ‘No, this is what we’re going to do, and it’s final.’ ”

Muhammad shared his plan to shoot and bomb people in July 2002, on a trip to Baton Rouge, La., Malvo said.

“That was just dropped on me … like a bombshell,” Malvo said.

After that conversation, he put one bullet in a five-shot revolver and pulled the trigger four times, but could not pull it a fifth.

“I sat in the bathroom and played Russian roulette for several hours, crying,” Malvo said. “I couldn’t pull the trigger. … I broke down.”

Muhammad was convicted and sentenced to death in 2003 for a sniper killing in Virginia. Malvo was convicted of a different murder, although a Chesapeake, Va., jury gave the younger shooter a sentence of life without parole.

Authorities say Muhammad’s second trial will provide insurance in case his Virginia conviction is overturned.

After the prosecution finished its questions, Muhammad appeared determined to antagonize Malvo through his cross-examination. Muhammad spent the day’s last 45 minutes asking a string of seemingly unrelated questions, which at times were simply personal jabs at his former apprentice.

When Circuit Court Judge James L. Ryan asked Muhammad how long he planned to cross-examine Malvo, Muhammad shrugged and said, “To be honest, your honor, I haven’t even got started.”

Malvo will be back on the stand today.

Malvo, however, will not go on trial in Montgomery County. He has signed a plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty to the six Montgomery County slayings.

Assistant State’s Attorney Katherine Winfree made it clear that Malvo is not receiving any benefits in exchange for his testimony or his guilty plea, and that she will ask the court to give him the maximum sentence for each murder — life in prison without parole.

Malvo said that in all but three of the shootings, his job was to give Muhammad a green light over a two-way radio.

Malvo said that each time Muhammad shot, he would do so from the back of a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice that had been modified to be what police later called “a killing machine.”

Muhammad would crawl into the trunk through the back seat, open the trunk slightly and take the shot from the trunk through a small hole, Malvo said.

Malvo’s job was to make sure no one was near the car and have an escape route ready.

All three of Malvo’s shots were taken outside of the Caprice, from wooded areas, Malvo said.

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