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Archive for Friday, October 14, 2011

U.S. prosecutors are getting tough with felons who pick up guns again

Law enforcement officers are ratcheting up their pursuit of felons who attempt to obtain guns and ammunition.

Law enforcement officers are ratcheting up their pursuit of felons who attempt to obtain guns and ammunition.

October 14, 2011

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It was an expensive trip to Walmart for 29-year-old Reuben James Zeller of Lawrence.

And not because of the bullets he had someone purchase for him.

That purchase a law enforcement informant made for Zeller on Oct. 6, 2010, in Topeka will cost him 15 years in federal prison because he was barred from possessing a gun or weapons because of his past convictions. Zeller is also accused of committing a drive-by shooting at a Topeka residence in October 2010.

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, the top federal prosecutor in the state, is highlighting Zeller’s recent plea agreement with prosecutors as an example of cracking down on repeat violent offenders who don’t change their ways after they get out of prison.

“They are back and hanging out with the same buddies,” Grissom told the Lawrence Central Rotary Club last month.

He and other Department of Justice officials nationally are worried the violent behavior could continue to escalate, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has stressed that federal prosecutors should work with local law enforcement to get guns out of the hands of felons. Holder’s order came after 162 law enforcement officers nationally were killed in 2010. Grissom, whom President Barack Obama nominated to the Kansas post in 2010, said that was the deadliest year for law enforcement in more than two decades and that the country was on track to beat that number this year.

Grissom also highlighted a recent 11-month undercover investigation in Wichita conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in which 67 people were charged, and authorities, with the help of local law enforcement, recovered 200 guns — including ones reported stolen and sawed-off shotguns — and illegal drugs.

Under federal law, it’s illegal for anyone convicted of a felony and drug traffickers to possess guns or ammunition.

Grissom said federal agents and prosecutors have been working with local officers to target convicted felons who might still be possessing guns. He also has said they were looking to do similar operations in the Kansas City, Kan., and Topeka areas.

“If you know who those folks are and you can find them with weapons or ammunition, we can take that person out of the community and make the community safer,” Grissom said. “We’re taking a very active stance on doing those kinds of things.”

One Topeka man, Steven Allen Contee, 33, was sentenced last week to serve seven years in federal prison for selling three shotguns with co-defendant Patrick M. Tracy Jr. to ATF agents working under cover at a hotel parking lot in Topeka on Feb. 5. Both Contee and Tracy had prior felony convictions.

Reuben Zeller, the Lawrence man who is expected to serve 15 years in federal prison, seems to fit the profile for the type of criminal federal authorities are most concerned about. According to the Kansas Department of Corrections, Zeller in 2003 received a prison sentence for a 2002 burglary in Jackson County north of Topeka. He also has a Shawnee County burglary conviction and an aggravated assault conviction from 2005 in Osage County, all of which barred him from possessing a firearm.

But during his most recent crime spree in 2010 after he was paroled in 2009, federal authorities allege through a witness that Zeller was distributing firearms and prescription drugs to people in Lawrence and Topeka.

According to the proffer for Zeller’s guilty plea in the federal case, Zeller told an informant on Sept. 27 he fired 18 rounds from a Remington 9 mm handgun into the residence of a man he had argued with earlier. He later pleaded no contest in an October Douglas County case in which he is accused of threatening someone, and as part of his federal plea agreement, Zeller will enter a plea in the Shawnee County shooting case.

About two weeks after the drive-by shooting, officers used reviewed surveillance video from a Topeka Walmart store and obtained video of Zeller giving money to a confidential informant to buy him ammunition, which he was barred from possessing as a felon.

“The things that people don’t go hunting with,” Grissom said. “They only use them in commission of crimes. We took those off the streets.”

Comments

Jim Phillips 3 years, 1 month ago

It's about time this law was properly enforced!

pooter 3 years, 1 month ago

It's way past time these "felon in possession of a firearm" laws were rewritten to completely restore full 2nd Amendment rights upon completion of their sentences for convicted felons of non-violent crime.

*

Glenn Reed 3 years, 1 month ago

Let's see....

A drive-by shooting is a violent crime.

I'd consider burglary to be a violent crime, since entering someone's home without asking has a high probability of turning into a violent situation.

Aggravated assault is a violent crime.

I'm not seeing an example of a non-violet offender in the article anywhere, pooter. Did you read the article?

headdoctor 3 years, 1 month ago

Yup, and we have been doing this since 2006. Correct me if I am wrong but I don't believe Obama was in office then. I don't hear any bashing going on about President Bush and company for the 3 years it was going on during his administration.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 1 month ago

What should be the penalty for Holder supplying hundreds of firearms to violent drug gangs? What did Barry know and when did he know it?

Mixolydian 3 years, 1 month ago

Obama commented directly on Fast and Furious 2 months prior to Holder telling Congress in May that he just found out about the operation:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2011/10/13/obama_spoke_about_fast__furious_before_holder_claimed_he_knew.html

Charles L Bloss Jr 3 years, 1 month ago

It is about time. Felons with firearms need to be targeted for long prison terms, so they are off the street and no longer a danger to citizens. On a positive note, thanks to concealed carry laws at least citizens at least have a chance to protect themselves and their families against these predators. Thank you, Lynn

Frederic Gutknecht IV 3 years, 1 month ago

“The things that people don’t go hunting with,” Grissom said. “They only use them in commission of crimes. We took those off the streets.”

??? Will concealed carry continue with such drivel spouting from U.S. Attorneys ???

Alex Parker 3 years, 1 month ago

Smitty, this is the only story we've written on this subject recently. It was originally posted on Friday.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 1 month ago

Bring out your dead (horses)! Bring out your dead (horses)!

bearded_gnome 3 years, 1 month ago

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, the top federal prosecutor in the state, is highlighting Zeller’s recent plea agreement with prosecutors as an example of cracking down on repeat violent offenders who don’t change their ways after they get out of prison.

---okay, but it's time to crackdown on Atty General Holder. time to impeach him! actively chose to drop prosecution of New Black Panthrs for voter intimidation (well documented).

also, he knew about Operation Fast and Furious, that sent about two thousand guns into Mexico. at least one american officer died because of bullets fired from one of these.

time to fry him.

grammaddy 3 years, 1 month ago

He dropped the prosecution of the Black Panthers for lack of evidence. So what if they chose to stand outside a polling place. Film proves they did not harrass anyone. If you're intimidated at the sight of a Black Panther, that is YOUR problem. Not Eric Holder's. I'd like to see some of that "documentation".

DillonBarnes 3 years, 1 month ago

Ha, does anyone actually read those or do you just smile and say "oh, smitty" and scroll on past?

TopJayhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

GIVE IT A REST SMITTY> You make me ill.

Go watch Leave it to Beaver or something. Oh, I forgot, Wally and the Beav are informants against YH.

My god. Everyone is against them.

Getaroom 3 years, 1 month ago

What a bunch of broken records from the Hate Obama Collection who want to make a trip backward to pre civil war times. Brownbackward and Rick Perry need you on their team! Go and do not come back please!!!

LadyJ 3 years, 1 month ago

Have you ever seen me make a remark supporting Brownback, and I don't even know who Perry is. I have never made a remark that I can remember about any president, not my thing. Don't think I'm the one that need to go.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 1 month ago

I've never see both of them at the same time. Hmmmmmmm (from a source)

edmclinn 3 years, 1 month ago

For some felons. they should just stay out of trouble long enough and get an attorney to file the paperwork to get their rights back first. Then they can legally have guns again.

Peacemaker452 3 years, 1 month ago

If society can’t trust them to fully exercise all of their natural rights, with no restrictions, they should not be walking freely among us.

itwasthedukes 3 years, 1 month ago

So we weren't tough on felons before? Wow that was a miscalculation.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 1 month ago

Two of the big problems that convicted felons face when they get out of prison is finding a job, and any social life that does not include their former acquaintances.

Until persons who have served time in prison have a fair chance of finding a decent job and are no longer regarded as outcasts by so many, they don't have much of a chance for any kind of meaningful new start.

The only way to change that is for our society to consider time spent in prison to be complete payment for crimes committed in the past, for employers to not bar former felons from so many jobs, and for law abiding people to accept that some people have made mistakes in the past.

Otherwise, returning to a life of crime is the only realistic option for many.

But, that's just my opinion.

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