Prisoner convicted in plot for reward

March 03, 1995|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

A murderer already serving life in prison was found guilty yesterday of falsely trying to take the blame for sending the package bomb five years ago that injured Washington County Circuit Judge John P. Corderman.

Lynn Duane Hewitt, 42, tried to implicate himself in the bombing so that he and another inmate could cash in on a $76,000 reward, federal prosecutors said.

Hewitt, who was sentenced to life plus 35 years by Judge Corderman in 1987 for fatally shooting a Hagerstown school teacher, was convicted after a five-day trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

"It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," Mr. Corderman said of the guilty verdict. "My understanding is that this all happened because of good old garden-variety greed."

Mr. Corderman, 52, retired from the bench in 1993 because of lingering hearing problems caused by a pipe bomb explosion in December 1989. The package containing the explosive had been mailed to his apartment. Prosecutors refused to discuss whether there are any leads in finding the real bomber.

Hewitt and Brad Allen Tate, a convicted armed robber, were inmates at the Maryland House of Correction in the summer of 1993 when they hatched a plan to collect the reward offered for information leading to the bomber, court papers said. Tate pleaded guilty last month.

The men wanted a grand jury to indict Hewitt for the 1989 bombing so that Tate could collect the $76,000 and split it with Hewitt, prosecutors said. Hewitt figured that the extra jail time for a bombing conviction would be irrelevant since he was already in jail for life.

Mr. Corderman said Tate told authorities that the 1989 bombing was part of an "ongoing plot against my life" and that more bombings were likely.

"This caused me and my family a great deal of upset at the time that it happened in the spring of 1994," said Mr. Corderman, who now has a private law practice in Hagerstown.

"I was given federal protection for an extensive period of time. The threat was that someone was going to put a bomb in my car."

The jury found Hewitt guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, mailing a threatening communication, and eight counts of mail fraud. Prosecutors said the scheme to collect the reward money was primarily orchestrated through letters between Hewitt and Tate.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Purcell said Hewitt could receive five years in prison on each count. Mr. Purcell said he will seek the additional jail time to run consecutively to the sentence of life plus 35 years that Hewitt is already serving.

Hewitt was found guilty in 1987 of killing Dennis W. Symons, a 39-year-old French teacher who was shot in the back of the head at his Hagerstown apartment during a robbery. Judge Corderman, who presided over Hewitt's trial, yesterday recalled that Hewitt acted as his own attorney.

"He had a fool for a client," Mr. Corderman said. "Not much has changed."

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