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Weapons charge: Two National Guard soldiers awaiting sentencing

The U.S. attorney's office for the southern district of California reported that two National Guard soldiers will be sentenced in federal court on April 15. Each defendant entered a guilty plea to a weapons charge related to the sales of numerous weapons without a license. The two men worked in El Cajon in the Army National Guard Armory. Both men reportedly admitted to selling weapons to an undercover Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent.

One of the defendants also admitted that, on three different occasions, he traveled to another state to purchase assault weapons. Those were then illegally brought to California and sold to the ATF agent. He pleaded guilty to these three additional charges, and each charge is said to carry a prison sentence of up to five years. According to the U.S. attorney's office, this man's plea agreement states that he sold four assault rifles and high-capacity magazines to the undercover agent between Sept. 2014 and March 2015.

The plea agreement of the second man stated that he admitted to selling a pistol and an assault rifle to the ATF agent sometime between Aug. and Oct. in 2014. Both men admitted that they were under the impression that the weapons were heading to Mexico and that the undercover agent was a drug cartel member. The weapons sold to the agent reportedly included some that were issued by the military and others that were purchased in Texas. The criminal complaint states that the defendants were dressed in Army uniforms during one meeting with the undercover agent, at which time they also stated that some of the weapons were stolen or had been used in criminal activities.

A conviction for any weapons charge can be severe, and these two California men would likely have retained the services of experienced criminal defense attorneys. Although the expected penalties may sound harsh, each man's defense counsel probably guided their client in making the decision to plead guilty with the eye on the potential for lighter penalties. As their cases move forward, the defendants' attorneys may be able to further limit the penalties by the successful presentations of mitigating circumstances.

Source: armytimes.com, "Two Guardsmen admit selling guns to agent posing as member of Mexican drug cartel", Michelle Tan, Jan. 15, 2016

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