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Plea is on hold
In gun ‘straw purchase’ case

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

From Bulletin and AP reports

The federal prosecution of a local man and a Rocky Mount police officer on gun charges has been delayed pending the outcome of a similar case slated to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and court documents.

David Carson Haskins, who is in his late 50s, and James Marion Slate, 26, an officer in Rocky Mount, were indicted in July and charged with conspiring to make “straw purchases” of firearms. A straw purchase typically involves one person buying a gun legally and passing it on to someone else, often because the second person isn’t authorized to buy the gun.

According to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Brian McGinn, both Haskins and Slate have agreed to plead guilty in the case — provided they are allowed to wait until after the Supreme Court has ruled on the case of Bruce Abramski, who was convicted of making a straw purchase in 2011.

Abramski argues that the law should not have applied to his situation because both he and the person he gave the gun to — an elderly uncle — were legally allowed to own firearms.

When the indictments were handed down against Slate and Haskins in July, Haskins, identified in court documents as the owner of Southern Gun Inc. in Bassett, was charged with 18 counts of making false statements to a licensed firearms dealer in relation to the purchase of a firearm. Both Haskins and Slate were charged with one count of conspiracy to make straw purchases of firearms.

McGinn said Tuesday that he did not know to which counts Haskins has agreed to plead guilty.

The indictment alleges that Slate and Haskins conspired in late 2012 and early this year to recruit straw buyers. Authorities seized 21 guns in connection with the investigation, it says.

During a hearing last month, Chief U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad agreed to postpone Haskins’ case until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Abramski case.

In doing so, the judge noted that Haskins’ defense and the prosecution would “conditionally finalize a plea agreement, prepare and sign an agreed statement of facts to support the charged offenses, and stipulate to the admissibility of the statement of facts at trial, in the event that Haskins changes course and decides not to plead guilty.”

McGinn said that if the high court’s decision were to change Haskins’ mind about entering a guilty plea, he still could decide not to plead guilty. However, the statement of facts Haskins and prosecutors agree to could be used against him if the case were to go to trial, according to McGinn.

The plea agreement and statement of facts had not been made part of the online record as of Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Slate, who had been scheduled for trial that day, reached the same agreement with prosecutors, McGinn said.

According to online records, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Abramski case Jan. 22.

That case has a local connection as well: Abramski bought the Glock 19 handgun he was convicted of transferring to his uncle at Town Police Supply in Collinsville in 2009, according to previous reports.

Slate is on unpaid leave from the Rocky Mount police force.


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