MANASSAS, Va. (AP) — Sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad
was sentenced to death yesterday by a judge who called the
Washington-area shootings that left 10 people dead “so vile
that they were almost beyond comprehension.”

Muhammad denied any involvement in the October 2002 rampage,
echoing a claim of innocence he made in his opening statement to
the jury when he briefly served as his own attorney.

“Just like I said at the beginning, I had nothing to do
with this, and I’ll say again, I had nothing to do with
this,” Muhammad said yesterday.

He told the judge he plans to appeal, and urged,
“Don’t make a fool of the Constitution of the United
States of America.”

A jury recommended a death sentence for Muhammad last year, but
Circuit Court Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. had the option to reduce it
to life in prison without parole. Millette said the evidence of
Muhammad’s guilt was “overwhelming.”

“These offenses are so vile that they were almost beyond
comprehension,” Millette said.

Muhammad appeared in an orange jail jumpsuit with a slightly
graying, unkempt beard, in sharp contrast to his clean-shaven,
well-dressed appearance at trial. His teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd
Malvo, is to be sentenced today to life in prison.

About 50 family members of sniper victims were in the courtroom.
One silently shook his fist as Millette announced the sentence.

“Justice has been served today,” said Sonia Wills,
mother of sniper victim Conrad Johnson, who would have been 37 this
Sunday. “I can go to my son’s grave and wish him a
happy birthday.”

The sister of Hong Im Ballenger, allegedly killed by Muhammad
and Malvo in Baton Rouge, La., in the weeks before the D.C.
attacks, said Muhammad deserved to die.

“He killed so many innocent people,” said a tearful
Kwang Im Szuszka. “My nephew is 12 years old and he needs his
mommy. … It breaks my heart.”

Muhammad, 43, was convicted of capital murder on Nov. 17 for the
Oct. 9, 2002, murder of Dean Harold Meyers at a gas station near
Manassas.

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