Teen pleads guilty in Dunbar rape case

Sixteen-year-old Avion Lawson
Sixteen-year-old Avion Lawson

By Chuck Weber email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - One of the young men charged in the notorious Dunbar Village rape case has entered a guilty plea. Sixteen-year-old Avion Lawson was in court Wednesday morning admitting guilt on all counts against him.

Lawson's lawyer said his client will cooperate with prosecutors. With the first of two trials in the case set to begin next week, Lawson's guilty plea has the potential to impact the rest of the proceedings.

Lawson's mother joined him and his lawyer at the defense table. Judge Krista Marx listed each count, and asked Lawson if he was guilty. He said he was.

Lawson, 14 at the time, and three others-- all 18 and under-- were charged in the case. The young men are accused of repeatedly raping and beating a woman and her son at gunpoint, while wearing masks. The attack took place at the Dunbar Village public housing complex in West Palm Beach in June 2007. Prosecutors say investigators found Lawson's DNA and fingerprints at the crime scene.

Now that he's pleaded guilty, Lawson is looking at between 50 years and life, under sentencing guidelines. Lawson's lawyer, Bert Winkler, says he will use his client's cooperation with prosecutors, along with his level of involvement, and age, to argue for a lesser sentence.

"He is stepping up," said Winkler. "He's taking full responsibility for his actions. He wants to do the right thing in this very sad matter." Winkler said Lawson is sorry for the role he played in the rape.

Lawson's mother was in tears at the end of hearing. She avoided reporters, exiting through a side door.

Lawson is set to give a statement to prosecutors and defense lawyers Monday, a day before the first Dunbar trial is scheduled to begin. Lawson's statement could provide new evidence and in addition to potentially impact the cases against the other three defendants, prosecutors again said in court Wednesday, others besides the four charged participated in the Dunbar attack.

In August of 2008, another Dunbar defendant, Jakaris Taylor, took a deal negotiated with prosecutors. He was to receive a 25-year sentence, in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors. But Taylor failed to uphold his end of the bargain and the deal fell through.

Lawson's sentencing is tentatively set for October.