Father convicted, his son acquitted

Separate juries hear same carjacking case


February 07, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A father was convicted and his son acquitted by separate Howard County juries hearing the same case - one last week, one yesterday - in the carjacking of a former University of Maryland pharmacology instructor outside his Columbia home in July.

Michael Lee Sr.'s conviction last week on armed carjacking, armed robbery, theft, handgun and related charges was followed yesterday by not guilty findings for his son, 19-year-old Michael Lee Jr.

The younger Lee was accused of holding a gun to Patson Nhamburo outside his home in the 8900 block of Tamar Drive during the early-morning hours July 26 and taking the keys to Nhamburo's Chrysler Concord while his 44-year-old father acted as lookout nearby, according to testimony.

An officer saw four men bail out of the car in Woodlawn less than an hour later, and police arrested two passengers, Donnell Ledbetter and Jose Medina. Medina dropped a BB gun when he fled, according to testimony.

The two identified the Lees as the carjackers and said they got into the car after the theft, according to testimony. Medina and Ledbetter's theft and unauthorized-use cases were placed on the inactive docket in return for their testimony.

Nhamburo picked out the younger Lee as the gunman from a photographic lineup, while the older Lee's fingerprints and palm prints were found on a door handle and on the outside of the car, according to testimony.

But Claudette Williams, the younger Lee's grandmother and the older Lee's mother, testified during both trials that both men were with her throughout the night and that they went outside for only five or 10 minutes after four men came to the door at her Hayshed Lane home.

Michael Lee Jr.'s attorney, Paul Polansky, argued this week that Ledbetter and Medina implicated the Lees to protect their "friends" and said Nhamburo's identification was faulty. It was dark outside and half of the gunman's face was covered during the incident, he said.

Michael Lee Jr.'s fingerprints were not found on the car, and his father's were found only on the outside, Polansky said.

While Polansky attacked the credibility of Medina and Ledbetter, saying they were "clearly involved" but got off "scot-free," prosecutor Lisa Brown said yes terday that the two men were guilty only of "hanging around with a bad element" and said their testimony matched the evidence. She also argued that Nhamburo "confidently" identified Michael Lee Jr. as the gunman.

Michael Lee Sr.'s lawyer, assistant public defender Janette DeBoissiere, said that she believes her client is "an innocent man," and plans to file a motion for a new trial in his case based, in part, on the jury deliberations. Jurors in the father's case initially returned with a guilty verdict, but when polled by the clerk, one juror balked. Jurors were asked to continue deliberating and later returned a unanimous verdict.

Sentencing for Michael Lee Sr. is scheduled for May 9 before Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley.

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