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Men convicted in Fla. home invasion gang rape

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BRIAN SKOLOFF | August 28, 2009 07:09 PM EST | AP

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Two men were convicted Friday in the brutal gang rape attack on a woman and her young son in a South Florida housing project and could be sentenced to life in prison.

Tommy Poindexter, 20, and Nathan Walker, 18, were tried together but with separate juries. Poindexter's panel found him guilty of rape, kidnapping, assault and burglary. Walker's jury returned less than two hours later, also convicting him on similar charges.

Poindexter now faces eight life sentences. Walker could be sentenced to 11 life terms.

A third defendant, Avion Lawson, 16, pleaded guilty and testified against Poindexter and Walker. A fourth defendant, 17-year-old Jakaris Taylor, is set for trial next month.

The defendants made limited admissions to the attack, but also tried to deflect blame. Lawson claims he raped the woman once, then left soon after. Poindexter's attorney says her client raped the woman, but didn't participate in any other crimes. Walker's attorney didn't acknowledge any guilt.

They were all teens at the time of crime, but were charged as adults.

Authorities say fingerprints and DNA found on clothing and condoms inside the apartment identified the defendants. They are still seeking additional suspects.

Poindexter showed little emotion as the verdict was read, occasionally bowing his head and resting his chin on his clasped hands. Deputies say he asked to be handcuffed during the reading because he wasn't sure he could control himself.

He looked over his shoulder as he was led out of the courtroom and mouthed, "I love you," to family members in the gallery. They cried and quickly left the courtroom, shouting obscenities as they walked from the building.

Walker didn't show much emotion, either, staring straight ahead as the verdicts were read.

Attorneys for both men declined to comment until after sentencing on Oct. 13.

Poindexter was convicted on eight of 13 counts. The jury found him not guilty on several counts related to the suspects having forced the mother to perform oral sex on her son. Walker was convicted on 11 of 14 counts, and his jury did find him guilty in the mother-son sex acts.

During the trial, prosecutors told jurors that it didn't matter how many of the crimes each defendant actually participated in – they were all equally responsible for the entire episode since they were present inside the apartment.

Earlier in the week, the 37-year-old female victim described for jurors the terrifying night of June 18, 2007, in her public housing complex apartment a few miles from downtown West Palm Beach.

She recounted how she prayed for her life and cried in pain as she was repeatedly raped and her son beaten by 10 masked, gun-toting teens. Then she testified about being forced to perform oral sex on her son, who was 12 at the time. The victims were then doused with chemicals in an attempt to clean the crime scene.

Throughout the attack, the suspects demanded money, but she had none. The victims had fled even worse poverty in their native Haiti several years earlier, landing in the crime-plagued Dunbar Village housing complex where the attack occurred.