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New violence tied to sniper suspect

MANASSAS, Va. - The string of cross-country violence attributed to sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad grew yesterday to include a mugging and a malicious wounding, according to court papers that also allege Muhammad said "America got what it deserved" on Sept. 11, 2001.

The documents indicate that Muhammad expressed "racist and anti-American views," forged passports and drivers licenses in 2001 and 2002, and shot at passing cars with a rifle from a concealed location in McKinley Park in Tacoma, Wash.

Authorities have linked Muhammad, 42, and his teen-age traveling companion, Lee Boyd Malvo, to 17 shootings in five states and the District of Columbia. The documents released yesterday add the mugging of an elderly man in Arizona and the malicious wounding of a man in Baton Rouge, La.; both incidents occurred last year.

The court documents were filed by prosecutors as a "notice of unadjudicated conduct" that they may use against Muhammad at sentencing if he is convicted of killing engineer Dean Harold Meyers at a Manassas gas station Oct. 9.

Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. agreed to seal the documents at a hearing yesterday, but they had already been posted on the court's Web site of trial information. It is not clear who allowed the posting.

Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert and Muhammad's defense attorneys did not immediately return calls last night.

The documents gave the first official indication of how Muhammad and Malvo came to possess the .223-caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle that authorities say was used in the killings. The documents say Muhammad stole the rifle from Bull's Eye Shooter Supply in Tacoma some time after the store received it in July 2002.

Prosecutors wrote that the first time they are aware of the gun being used was in the killing of Million Waldemariam on Sept. 21 in Atlanta. The weapon was found in the trunk of the blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice in which Muhammad and Malvo were found sleeping on Oct. 24.

Other new information included in the court papers states that Muhammad was an unindicted co-conspirator on a federal charge of passport fraud in December.

Officer Mark Fulghum, a spokesman for the Tacoma Police Department, said he was unaware that authorities alleged Muhammad had shot at cars from McKinley Park. He was also unsure which McKinley Park in Tacoma (there are several) they had in mind.

"One has a view of the freeway," he said. "The others are in residential neighborhoods."

Also yesterday, Millette ruled that Muhammad could be taken to a local hospital for mental health tests - a move sought by Muhammad's attorneys as they prepare his defense.

Millette allowed the tests over prosecutors' objections but said he would have to see a list of the tests to be conducted. He also said the results must be shared with the prosecution.

It's unclear whether the defense team will use Muhammad's mental state in October - when 10 people were killed and three wounded in a series of sniper-style shootings in the Washington region - as a defense in the capital murder trial set to begin Oct. 14.

Defense attorneys were to inform the court by last week if they intended to use a mental health defense, but they failed to do so. The lawyers said they weren't ready to make that decision, and the judge gave them an extension to Aug. 29.

Ebert said the defense attorneys should not be allowed to make their client's mental health an issue because they missed the deadline.

"They've had ample opportunity [to raise] any type of mental issue that may be involved," Ebert told the judge. "If you're not going to comply with the court's order, you ought not be able to enter such evidence."

Defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro said doctors have been "diligently" meeting with Muhammad and the defense team, as well as tracking down people and records from the suspect's past. Shapiro said it has been difficult to obtain Muhammad's military medical history and his hospital admission records from Baton Rouge and Tacoma.

"We've had our investigators working overtime to find the people our experts need to talk to," Shapiro said.

Muhammad faces trial first in the Meyers killing. Malvo, 18, is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 10 in the killing of FBI analyst Linda Franklin on Oct. 14 in Fairfax County. Both trials were granted a change of venue.

Yesterday, Millette rejected the defense's request for public funds to hire a jury consultant. The lawyers argued that they needed help in preparing questions for jury selection and evaluating potential jurors. The judge said he thought the defense team had enough experience to do that on its own.

Millette said the courthouse in Virginia Beach, where the trial was moved, has postponed all other jury trials for that week so the entire jury pool of 120 people will be available for the sniper trial. Twelve jurors and three alternates will be chosen.

Millette also rejected the defense's request for extra peremptory challenges in creating the jury pool. He decided each side will get six challenges, even though Shapiro argued that the nature of the case - given the intense publicity it has generated and the fear the crimes caused - called for more.

"The circumstances of this case are unique in criminal history in Virginia," Shapiro said.

But prosecutors said the Muhammad case was no different from any capital case and that to say so is an insult to the families of other murder victims.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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