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Wis. Man Who Bought Pistol Used To Shoot Officers May Get 10 Years

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via YellowBrix

January 06, 2010

MILWAUKEE — In a sentence that would be among the toughest handed down, a federal prosecutor is recommending 10 years in prison for the man who bought the gun allegedly used to shoot two Milwaukee police officers last year.

The sentencing Thursday of Jacob Collins could be a bellwether for future cases of straw buyers – people without criminal records who buy guns for felons.

They typically get probation or less than a year in prison because of their clean records and the notion they have not committed a violent crime, according to a review of five years of federal court records.

Collins’ attorney is asking for probation, saying his client had no way of knowing how the gun would be used.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Manning is arguing, however, the Collins case cries out for a heavy sentence from U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman to scare others who are tempted to buy a gun for a felon.

“Unlike the vast majority of sentencings which take place in this courthouse, the people of this city will be paying attention to this,” Manning wrote in a sentencing memo. “The court has an opportunity to send a message that will resonate and deter potential offenders long after the defendant is sentenced.”

Collins, 22, admits he purchased a Taurus .40-caliber pistol at Badger Guns and sold it for $40 to Julius Burton, 19, who was not old enough to buy it from the West Milwaukee store.

Burton is charged with using the weapon to shoot officers Graham Kunisch and Bryan Norberg. Both officers were shot in the head from close range but survived.

At the heart of the vastly different recommendations is the question of whether Collins holds responsibility for what Burton is accused of doing with the gun.

The prosecutor argues Collins had reason to believe Burton would shoot someone with the gun based on what he said before the purchase. He called 10 years a fair sentence for having a hand in attempted murder.

Public defender Daniel Stiller said Collins is developmentally disabled and didn’t understand fully what was happening.

“Jacob Collins told a lie. The telling of a lie was a crime. Jacob Collins should be punished for that illegal lie but only for that illegal lie,” Stiller wrote in his memo.

Police and prosecutors in Milwaukee have hammered for more than a decade on the need to crack down on straw buyers, calling for tougher penalties and more scrutiny by Badger Guns and its predecessor, Badger Outdoors.

Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors were involved in three-quarters of the straw-gun cases prosecuted in eastern Wisconsin in the past five years, according to federal court records.

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