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Haskins plea set July 11
On federal gun charges
Friday, June 20, 2014
By AMANDA ALDERMAN - Bulletin Staff Writer
A local man is set to plead guilty next month in a case involving the so-called “straw purchasing” of firearms.
David Carson Haskins, who is in his late 50s, is scheduled to plead guilty to two charges July 11, according to court officials and a copy of the plea agreement reached in his case.
Haskins is not expected to serve jail time under the plea agreement, according to his attorney and a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Haskins was indicted last year. The government alleged that he had others buy guns on his behalf so that he could sell them through his Bassett business, Southern Gun.
The government argued that because the people who bought the guns for Haskins answered in required paperwork that they were the “actual purchasers” of the firearms, even though they were buying them on Haskins’ behalf, the law had been broken.
Haskins was charged with 18 counts of making, aiding, abetting, counseling or causing a false statement to be made to a firearms dealer. He also was charged with one count of conspiracy to make straw purchases of firearms.
Buying a gun with the intention of passing it along to another buyer is known as making a straw purchase.
Under the agreement he reached with prosecutors, Haskins will plead guilty to two counts of making (or causing to be made) false statements to a gun dealer, a copy of his plea agreement shows. The remaining charges will be dropped as part of the agreement.
According to court documents, Haskins did not deny that he had several people buy weapons for him, or that he paid some of them to do so.
According to Haskins’ attorney, Jonathan Kurtin of Roanoke, and court records, Smith & Wesson, the manufacturer of the assault rifles in question, made them available for sale only to law enforcement officers and service members, their families and first responders. For that reason, Haskins could not buy them on his own.
Kurtin said it is common for police officers and others to buy weapons and later resell them, which he said is “entirely legal.”
Haskins had people who “were qualified to buy in every sense of the word” to purchase the guns for him, Kurtin said. “He’d pay them and they’d buy” the weapons.
According to a statement of facts in the case, Haskins paid the purchasers between $50 and $100 per gun, in addition to covering the cost of the guns.
The case was put on hold in November pending the Supreme Court’s decision in a similar case, U.S. vs. Abramski. In that case, Bruce James Abramski Jr., a former police officer, bought a Glock 19 handgun in Collinsville in 2009 for his uncle, who lived out of state. Abramski later transferred the gun to his uncle, who was legally entitled to buy the weapon and who paid Abramski to cover the cost.
Abramski was charged with making false statements because he identified himself as the actual purchaser of the gun. He pleaded guilty but appealed to challenge the law. The Supreme Court heard his case in January.
Among other things, Abramski’s attorney argued that because his uncle was legally allowed to buy a gun, no laws had been broken.
In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled Monday that the government does have the right to strictly enforce laws that ban the straw purchases of firearms, even if the person who receives the gun is legally allowed to buy it himself.
According to Kurtin, another key point of the Abramski case was whether the government is within its rights even to ask the person buying the gun if he is the “actual purchaser.”
In a dissent led by Justice Antonin Scalia, four of the justices argued that it is not, Kurtin said.
Haskins is slated to formally enter his guilty plea during the hearing July 11 in U.S. District Court. The maximum penalty on each charge is 10 years in prison and a fine. Haskins also agreed to forfeit numerous weapons.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has agreed not to seek more than three years of probation for Haskins and no active jail time, according to spokesman Brian McGinn and the plea agreement.
The final sentence will be determined by the judge.
After he is convicted, Haskins will not be allowed to operate his business, Kurtin said.
The case against a second man charged with Haskins, former Rocky Mount police officer James Slate, also was on hold pending the Abramski decision. As of Thursday, a hearing had not been scheduled for Slate, who is charged with conspiring to make straw purchases of firearms.
Slate allegedly bought guns on Haskins’ behalf and recruited others to do so, according to the statement of facts.