Second teen sentenced to life in Wheaton gang-rape case
Dec. 2, 1998

Another decides against guilty plea

by Frank Curreri, Staff Writer

December 2, 1998

A second teen-ager who pleaded guilty to participating in the gang rape of a high school freshman last March was sentenced to life in prison last week, and another suspect in the case decided against pleading guilty to the same crime on Monday.

Christopher Terry, of no fixed address, received the life imprisonment sentence from Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge James Chapin on Nov. 25. An alleged member of a loosely knit gang called "The 460 Crew," Terry had pleaded guilty Oct. 20 to the first-degree rape of the 99-pound, 15-year-old girl last March.

Terry was tried as an adult for the crime, and is the third of six suspects in the case to be sentenced.

Michael Lynch, now 20, of Macbeth Drive in Silver Spring, also is charged in the rape. Lynch and his attorney, Barry H. Helfand, originally agreed to plead guilty to the first-degree rape charge, according to Alex Foster, the Montgomery County state's attorney who is handling the case with prosecutor Debra Dwyer.

Foster said he had a signed agreement for the guilty plea from Lynch, but a defendant can back out of the plea agreement as long as the presiding judge has not approved it yet.

"It is rare that a defendant will back out of a written agreement, but in this case -- with the severity of the earlier sentences -- we were all wondering if it would have an effect such as this," Foster said.

Helfand was unavailable for comment.

Lynch is now scheduled to stand trial for the rape and other related charges March 15. He joins 17-year-old Harry Lee Williams as the only of six defendants who have not entered a plea agreement to the crime.

Either man, however, can still enter an agreement with the prosecution and forego a trial. Williams is currently trying to have his trial moved to juvenile court. That decision will be made Dec. 23.

Prior to Chapin handing down his punishment, Foster said that a stoical Terry stood up and attempted to apologize for his actions.

"He said, 'I can't say I'm sorry, because saying sorry isn't enough,'" Foster said. "I understand what he meant. It was an apology, but it came out wrong because he said it in a flat tone."

Foster said that the female victim was once again present to witness the sentencing of one of the young men who raped her. When another youth, 16-year-old Antoine Haskins of Silver Spring, was sentenced to life in prison for the rape last month, the girl wrote a letter that was read to the court.

This time, the girl spoke for herself.

"She expressed to the court the impact it had on her life and her family," Foster said. "I think she felt it was time for her voice to be heard. I think her primary concern was to tell the court what it felt like, because none of us can appreciate ... how traumatic and horrific this was."

Chapin's sentence was the maximum allowed under the state sentencing guidelines. Terry must serve 30 years in prison before he will be eligible for parole, Foster said, and can only be paroled with the consent of the governor of Maryland.

Along with Haskins and Terry, Muhaimin Adam, 18, of the 10500 block of Bucknell Drive in Wheaton, also entered a guilty plea for the first-degree rape charge.

Tyrone Anthony Moore, a 15-year-old from Silver Spring, is the only youth among the accused to be tried as a juvenile, a decision that was made by Chapin. Moore pleaded "responsible" to rape and sexual assault charges in the case and was ordered to the Charles Hickey School for Boys in Baltimore County, where he will be released by the age of 21 under state law.

No date has been set for Williams' trial, Foster said, but Williams and now Lynch face up to four life sentences plus an additional 25 years if convicted of first-degree rape and five other assault-related charges in the case. Foster also will explore the possibility of having convicted parties in the case testify against Williams and Lynch.

"You can expect that in this case," he said. "All of the co-defendants will be on any trial witness list. We definitely will reserve our option to use co-defendant testimony against any of those who now demand a trial."

The only problem with such testimonies, Foster said, is that "once a defendant has been sentenced they have no incentive to cooperate with you."

In addition to the testimony of convicted teen-agers in this case, Foster said DNA evidence might be used, and that the 15-year-old victim could testify at both trials.

"We have been working with her for a long time to prepare her for the eventuality of testifying at trial," he said. "And if she has to testify twice, we will do our best to meet that challenge."