Man given 20 years in slaying of trooper He is labeled 'scum' by Plank's father

September 20, 1996|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

Edward Plank Sr. didn't waste any words yesterday when he confronted the accomplice in the slaying of his son, a Maryland State Police trooper shot in the face after stopping a pair of drug smugglers in Somerset County last year.

Plank stood in the silence of a federal courtroom in Baltimore, steps away from William Smith Lynch, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y. Lynch stared at the floor as the father of the slain police officer described how the murder has shaken his family.

"You are the second most despicable person I have ever dealt with," Plank told Lynch, who pleaded guilty to federal drug and murder charges and was sentenced yesterday to 20 years in prison for his role in the killing. "The first is your cousin."

Lynch's cousin, Ivan Fitzherbert Lovell, 25, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the spring and was sentenced to death for the Oct. 17, 1995, slaying of Tfc. Edward A. Plank Jr. during a traffic stop on U.S. 13 near Princess Anne.

Plank's father told Lynch yesterday that the murder robbed him of a son, his son's wife of a husband and his son's 18-month old daughter of a father.

Wearing a blue plaid shirt and jeans, Lynch was silent, his eyes never meeting Plank's, as he sat at the defense table flanked by two defense attorneys.

Plank glared at Lynch and called him "scum."

Defense objection denied

Defense attorney William B. Purpura interrupted the statement, which was permitted in federal court under a change in the law enacted by Congress two years ago.

"This is inappropriate," Purpura said.

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis disagreed.

"Nobody's going to tell Mr. Plank what he's entitled to say," the judge said.

Plank told Lynch that "people like you are killing the country" with drugs and guns and violence. One day, he said, Lynch will have to answer for what he has done.

"You will meet your maker," Plank told him. "I hope and pray you burn in hell forever."

Originally, like his cousin, Lynch faced a charge of first-degree murder. But Lovell agreed to plead guilty to the slaying if prosecutors would drop the first-degree-murder count against his cousin.

Federal indictment

Lynch was then indicted by a grand jury on federal drug and murder charges. The maximum penalty for convictions on all six counts could have been life behind bars. But the plea agreement stipulated that Lynch did nothing during the traffic stop and subsequent shootout, and he was able to negotiate a deal that resulted in the 20-year term.

Prosecutors argued that Lynch's drug smuggling resulted in Plank's death.

"The circumstances of his offense are so heinous and difficult for us to accept as a possibility, it cries out for a sentence of 20 years, even though he did not carry a gun," U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia told the judge.

Asked whether he had anything to say, Lynch had one word: "No."

In a statement by his lawyers, Lynch said he was sorry for what happened.

"William understands the seriousness of the situation and deeply regrets his participation," the two-page statement said. "William would like to extend his sincere apology to his family, the court and the survivors of Trooper Plank."

'The worst of the worst'

For nearly everyone in the courtroom -- family members, state troopers and attorneys -- it was a difficult day.

At one point, prosecutor Katharine J. Armentrout, head of the violent crimes division, was visibly shaken by the sorrow surrounding the hearing.

"This is the worst of the worst," she said.

State Police Lt. Col. Ernest J. Leatherbury, Plank's first barracks commander, said he hoped the sentence would help the family of the slain officer, who was 28.

"It will be a long time before we can close this," he said outside the courtroom. "But I think this will help the family move forward."

Garbis noted that Lynch was not carrying a gun and that he did not have a history of committing crimes. He said Lynch did not make any moves to prompt the shooting after he and his cousin were pulled over for speeding that morning in Somerset County.

Cocaine found in car

Hidden in the red Plymouth Sundance was 250 grams of cocaine that the pair were smuggling from New York to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Lovell produced false identification. Plank wrote two tickets, for speeding and failing to produce a driver's license, and asked Lovell to sign his name on the tickets.

Lovell started to sign his real name, rather than the name he had given to the trooper. "You don't know how to sign your name," Plank told him, according to a statement Lovell later gave police.

Plank returned to his cruiser and called for help. Trooper Dennis Lord came to the scene, and Plank told him what had happened. The two troopers approached the Sundance and Plank asked Lovell to step out.

Instead, Lovell opened his door, pointed a .45-caliber Llama semiautomatic pistol at Plank's face and pulled the trigger from a foot away. Plank fell back onto the road. Lord and Lovell traded gunfire, then the Sundance sped off. Lovell and Lynch were captured that day.

Lynch should pay for the crime despite his limited role in the shooting, Garbis said. The judge said he hoped the publicity surrounding the case would send a signal to others pondering a life of guns and drugs.

In the end, the judge said, he was deeply saddened. "I wish we were never here," Garbis said, "for all of the reasons in the world."

Pub Date: 9/20/96

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