Teen testifies against co-defendants in gang rape

WEST PALM BEACH — A teen defendant admitted Tuesday that when he was a 14-year-old middle schooler he participated in a gang rape of a mother and helped beat the woman’s 12-year-old son in a horrific assault in which the two victims were forced to perform sex acts on each other.

“I feel bad for what happened,” Avion Lawson, now 16, testified in the trial of two co-defendants.

He was set to stand trial in September, but pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the others in hopes of receiving a lesser sentence.

Nathan Walker, 18, and Tommy Lee Poindexter, 20, are now on trial, facing 14 counts, including sexual battery, burglary, kidnapping, grand theft and promoting sexual performance of a child. A fourth defendant, 17-year-old Jakaris Taylor, is set for trial next month.

All of the defendants were teens at the time, but are charged as adults.

They face up to 11 life sentences plus 50 years if convicted.

Police say the teens burst into the woman’s apartment at a public housing complex just a few miles from downtown West Palm Beach on June 18, 2007.

Lawson described a chaotic scene inside, with attackers coming and going, raping the woman over and over, sodomizing her, beating the boy, and forcing the mother to perform oral sex on her son.

Police say Lawson and the other defendants were among as many as 10 teenagers who attacked the woman, and later doused the victims with cleaning solutions, nail polish remover and vinegar to clean the crime scene.

Lawson said the woman’s son cried, “Don’t kill me,” over and over as he was beaten.

Meanwhile, he said, the woman was being raped repeatedly in another room. Lawson admitted raping her, too.

“She still begging for her life?” asked prosecutor Craig Williams.

“Yeah,” Lawson mumbled.

“Are you ashamed of what happened?” Williams asked.

“Yeah,” he mumbled again.

“Why’d you do it?” Williams finally asked in a whisper.

“I don’t know. I wasn’t in my right state of mind,” Lawson replied.

On cross examination, Poindexter’s attorney, public defender Carey Haughwout, immediately attacked Lawson’s motivation for pleading guilty and testifying against the others.

“Really what you want is to spare yourself life in prison, right?” Haughwout asked.

“Yeah,” Lawson replied.

Lawson, like the others, is trying to deflect blame, and only taking partial responsibility, even though he pleaded guilty to all charges. Lawson claims he raped the woman once, then left soon after. Poindexter’s attorney told jurors her client, too, raped the woman, but he didn’t participate in any of the other crimes. Walker’s attorney has taken a similar approach.

Throughout his testimony, Lawson depicted Poindexter, the oldest defendant, as the ringleader, who he said directed the others to clean the crime scene because “he watched CSI.”

Lawson said Poindexter told the woman, “Shut up or I’ll kill you,” as he sodomized her, a rifle in his hand.

Lawson said the youths intended to rob the woman, and scoured the house for money and jewelry. He also said he wasn’t involved from the beginning, but was invited by Poindexter to enter the house after others were already inside.