Rape trial jury told suspect coached co-defendants on testimony

A man who was in the Montgomery County jail with Michael Andrease Lynch testified yesterday that the accused rapist urged two co-defendants to say he was not involved in the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl in a vacant Peppertree Farm apartment.

“I remember him saying if they would say he wasn’t there, he would get out and he would help them out,” testified William Layton, 42, a carpenter who was being held on drunken driving charges.

“They were talking about raping a girl,” Mr. Layton testified. “They called him Michael. . . . I remember him saying they had all taken part.”

“Lynch was convincing them that he did not have sex with her,” Mr. Layton said.

Mr. Layton said the three were “laughing and chuckling” as they awaited a bond hearing the afternoon of March 25, 1998, four days after the badly beaten girl told police six teen-agers had assaulted, robbed and raped her for more than three hours in the Aspen Hill apartment.

Mr. Lynch, now 21, is the last to go to trial. Four of the six teen-agers are serving life sentences in Maryland prisons. The other, the youngest at 15 and the only one processed through juvenile court, was sentenced to detention until he is 21.

The jury is expected to begin deliberation this evening, the seventh day of trial for Mr. Lynch.

Defense attorney Barry Helfand contends Mr. Lynch left the apartment before or soon after the assaults began. A key piece of defense evidence is a letter prepared by Antoine Deon “Worm” Haskins, now 18, that claims ringleader Harry Lee Williams, now 19, labeled Mr. Lynch “a snitch” and said co-defendants should say he was a participant in the rapes.

Under Mr. Helfand‘s cross examination yesterday, Mr. Layton gave some testimony differing from previous witnesses and evidence.

Mr. Layton said Mr. Lynch sounded like the leader, “It was as if he was in control of what was going on,” and that he was the first – not Williams – to rape the girl.

“I remember Michael saying he met her at the bus stop,” said Mr. Layton, who reported to police about a month later what he had overheard.

All other evidence indicates Williams and Muhain “Ghost” Ud-dien Adam , then 18, met the girl at the bus stop and persuaded her to ride the bus with them to Aspen Hill and walk 20 minutes through the rain to the apartment where the other four defendants – including Mr. Lynch – had gathered.

Mr. Helfand also has emphasized confusion about names and nicknames of the defendants. Previous testimony indicated another defendant might have been called “Mike.”

Detectives Scott Loomis and Melinda McLean, who took two statements from the girl, were recalled yesterday by Mr. Helfand, mostly to point out names mistakenly associated with defendants.

“She felt she had to put names with faces,” Detective Loomis said. “I knew she was getting confused” before he numbered the defendants and defined them by physical characteristics, “like crooked teeth.”