AUBURN — Frank Lynch was robbed, beaten and kidnapped when he tried to buy a used car last spring.

Or, he was a convicted thief expecting trouble when he paid a visit to the home of an acquaintance in Leeds late that night.

A jury of six women and eight men, including two alternates, will decide which story to believe.

The trials of co-defendants Donald White, 30, and David Surette, 19, got under way Tuesday in Androscoggin County Superior Court. Charges against the two include kidnapping, robbery, assault, theft and terrorizing, all felonies.

Assistant District Attorney Deborah Cashman outlined her case for the jury in an opening statement that lasted about 15 minutes.

She painted a picture of Frank Lynch as an unwitting victim who bought and sold cars in his spare time. She said he went to White’s home on March 24 with $425 cash in his pocket; $300 to buy a white Honda Civic and $125 to buy a car part.

Lynch had dropped off his girlfriend at her mobile home that night in Livermore Falls before going to see White.

Lynch was jumped by White and his cousin, Surette, as soon as Lynch entered White’s garage, Cashman told the jury. The two robbed Lynch of his cash, keys and cell phone; White erased text messages. Lynch was threatened and asked: “Where’s the money?”

They bound his arms and legs using duct tape and cord, Cashman told the jury. White shoved a gun with a clip into Lynch’s mouth, the sight at the end of the barrel scraping the roof of his mouth. Lynch worried he’d be killed, she said.

Lynch was held on the hood of the car, then thrown onto a nearby couch, Cashman told the jury. After midnight, he was put in the trunk of White’s Lexus and was driven to Lynch’s girlfriend’s home. Lynch could hear White and Surette trying to gain entry — to no avail.

They got Lynch out of the trunk, pulled a taped gag down far enough for him to speak and walked him to the front door. They told Lynch to tell his girlfriend to open the door. After calling his cell phone, which White handed to Lynch to confirm his identity, she opened the door.

Inside, White and Surette told her Lynch had been in a car accident to explain his injuries, Cashman said. She watched as Lynch handed to White about $1,200 in cash from a table in the living-room area, money Lynch had made from selling a car and a cashed paycheck. The three left.

They drove Lynch back to White’s home, where he eventually wrote Lynch a bill of sale for the Honda and let him leave. White and Surette cleaned up evidence of their crimes, Cashman said.

Lynch was told he and his girlfriend would die if Lynch told anybody about what happened, Cashman said. Police tracked him down after he was overheard telling a friend he’d been beaten and robbed. Police took him to a Lewiston hospital to be treated for his injuries three days after that night. Lynch told police he’d intentionally wiped his blood in White’s car and left other evidence for police to find.

But that doesn’t add up, White’s attorney, Allan Lobozzo, told the jury. Why did Lynch leave a trail of evidence for police then never report the crime to authorities but tell others the story?

The cases against White and Surette only hold together on the word of Lynch, who was convicted 1½ years ago of theft, Lobozzo said. Consider his credibility “as you evaluate each and every word that comes out of his mouth,” Lobozzo told the jury.

Prosecutors will present testimony of police, doctors and scientists as they seek to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, he said.

“The state’s case is only as strong as its weakest link,” which is Lynch, Lobozzo said.

Why was Lynch going to buy a car at 10:30 p.m., Lobozzo asked? Why did Lynch tell his girlfriend not to open the door for anybody when he dropped her off before going to White’s home?

“He expects trouble,” Lobozzo said.

If White and Surette had planned to tie up Lynch when he stepped into White’s garage, why did Lynch tell police his two captors were scrambling to find materials to bind him?

Lobozzo asked the jury to consider why Lynch had so much cash, including $2,000 on a nightstand, and $8,000 in the bank and why police began questioning him about illegal activities.

“His credibility is key,” Lobozzo said of Lynch, who told a friend after the alleged crimes that he was going to get a gun to settle a score. 

George Hess, attorney for Surette, told jurors to keep an open mind and hear all sides of the story before deciding the cases.

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David Surette, left, and his lawyer, George Hess, listen to Assistant District Attorney Deborah Cashman deliver her opening statements to the jury Tuesday morning in Androscoggin County Superior Court during the start of Surette’s trial.

Donald White, left, and his lawyer, Allan Lobozzo, listen to Assistant District Attorney Deborah Cashman make her opening statements to the jury in Androscoggin County Superior Court on Tuesday morning at the start of White’s kidnapping trial.

Justice Robert Clifford listens to Assistant District Attorney Deborah Cashman during opening statements Tuesday morning in Androscoggin County Superior Court.

Assistant District Attorney Deborah Cashman makes her opening statements Tuesday morning in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn.

Attorney Allan Lobozzo addresses the jury during his opening statements Tuesday morning in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn. He is representing Donald White.

Attorney George Hess addresses the jury during his opening statements Tuesday morning in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn. He is representing David Surette.


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