Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Youngest Dunbar Village rape defendant pleads guilty, will testify against others

The youngest of four men charged in the bone-chilling rape of a 35-year-old Dunbar Village woman and her 12-year-old son pleaded guilty this morning.

Avion Lawson, who was 14 when the woman and her son were gang raped in her West Palm Beach apartment in 2007, wants to accept responsibility for his actions, his attorney told Palm Beach Circuit Judge Krista Marx.

"He's very sorry for what he did," attorney Bert Winkler said.

Lawson's fingerprints were on a wall and his DNA was in a condom left at the woman's apartment.

The 16-year-old has agreed to testify against the three others charged in the rape - two of whom are to go to trial on Tuesday.

However, while his cooperation may win him some points with Marx, there are no guarantees, Winkler admitted.

Lawson, 16, faces a maximum 11 life sentences plus 50 years, according to sentencing guidelines. While Marx has broad discretion when she sentences him on Oct. 13, he faces a minimum of 49 years in prison.

Marx repeatedly warned Lawson that she could sentence him to life in prison.

"Yes, ma'am," Lawson answered softly each time Marx asked him whether he understood the consequences of pleading guilty to 14 charges in connection with the rape that shocked the community in both its brutality and the tender ages of those charged.

Lawson's mother, Kathy, stood by him as he admitted his guilt. While stoic in front of the judge, she collapsed in tears outside the courtroom after her son was led back to jail by sheriff's deputies.

According to police, as many as 10 young men entered the apartment of a woman identified in court papers only as M.D. and her son, identified as C.J. They raped her repeatedly, making her son watch, police said. They then forced the two to engage in sexual activity. Finally, they dumped chemicals on the two and fled, after stealing the woman's cell phone and car, and ripping their home phone out of the wall.

The two walked to Good Samaritan Medical Center in the middle of the night to seek treatment, prosecutors said.

Two others accused of the rape who are to be tried beginning Tuesday are: Tommy Poindexter, 20, and Nathan Walker, 18. While they will be tried together, they will have separate juries.

Jakaris Taylor, 17, who was to be tried with Lawson, is to face a jury in September.

Prosecutors acknowledged that all involved are not in custody.


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