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Old October 24, 2002, 12:41 PM   #1
Dave R
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Sniper Warrant: Federal Firearms Charges?!?!?

Why aren't they charging the guy with murder? Why a federal firearms warrant? So the ATF can fry the guy? What federal firearms violations could he have committed? Carrying a firearm across state lines? Barrel too short? Maybe a federal firearms violation is worse than murder?

Sheesh. I'm at a loss. Here's the details.

The Idaho Statesman is reporting that

"A federal arrest warrant was issued for John Allen Muhammed, also known as John Allen Williams, ON FEDERAL FIREARMS CHARGES, Montgomery County, MD Police Chief Charles Moore said". (my emphasis)

The story is atributed to Knight Ridder, by Sharon cCaffrey, Tony Pugh and Kristi Heim.

Similar story on CNN:

"The arrests were made under federal warrants -- for Muhammad on a FIREARMS CHARGE from western Washington state, and for Malvo on a material witness warrant out of Greenbelt, Maryland, stemming from the sniper case. " (my emphasis)
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Old October 24, 2002, 12:56 PM   #2
Rob Pincus
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The initial charges are irrelevent to the ultimate ending. The idea is to get the guy into custody.. it could just as well have been parking for over 2 hours at the rest stop, if MD has such rules!

Their are reports that the guy had a dishonorable discharge and that he was under a restraining order from his most recent ex wife. I think both prohibit possession of a firearm, which gets the feds their charge.

The formal charges for the shootings can't be filed until they have definitive justification or they risk having the whole thing tossed out of court. Same reason that the car wasn't ransacked at the scene... much better to get a search warrant from the judge/magistrate. Also, several states are in the game for the murder charges, and solid cases will have to be made in every jurisdiction and for every seperate shooting. Now that he is off the street, agencies can concentrate on connecting the dots and building cases specifically against this pair.
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Old October 24, 2002, 01:03 PM   #3
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The federal gov't does not, on the whole, prosecute people for murder (except for murder of federal agents engaged in federal business). That's a state charge.

While the goal is to execute him for murder, the sweeping power of the feds was needed to gather extensive evidence and track him down. To obtain federal search warrants, a federal charge is needed. Moose may be running the murder investigation, but he did not have jurisdiction to obtain search warrants for other states; the federal firearms charge provided that connection.

Using the firearms violation probably means they already have all the evidence they need to unquestionably nail him for something, so they use that to stick him in a cage. Once apprehended and caged, THEN they can figure out how to make the multiple murder charges stick, and decide which jurisdiction gets him first. Remember, we don't yet have legally unquestionable PROOF that he pulled the trigger; there's lots of circumstantial evidence pointing at his guilt, but for all we know maybe the kid did all the actual killing.

Remember: LE must follow the book, even when the rest of us think the pieces obviously fit together. The case must be rock-solid, or the perp can get off on a technicality. Law contains remarkable significant nuances. If that means pressing a stupid firearms charge to cage a serial killer, so be it.
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Old October 24, 2002, 01:09 PM   #4
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Despite the fact that one of these guys is a converted muslim, they are sounding more and more like just a couple of criminals for profit...They killed during a liquor store robbery in AL 5 weeks ago, using a handgun. Yes, there will be international terrorist speculation for years but, I think these guys (found sleeping in their car) do not fit the well financed, terrorist method of operation.

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Old October 24, 2002, 01:33 PM   #5
Nanaimo Barr
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maybe they should just ignore the (at this time) useful Federal firearms charge and let them go?

of course, there lawyer will point out that a federal court has ruled that the 2nd ammend is a individual right and can not be over riden by a state divorce court...
"Question that Regulation, you might be suprised to find out it's Illegal"
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Old October 24, 2002, 01:39 PM   #6
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(except for murder of federal agents engaged in federal business)
You mean like the victim who was a female FBI anti-terror analyst a few days ago?
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Old October 24, 2002, 05:03 PM   #7
Dave R
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What is the actual charge? Posessing a firearm while under a restraining order?

I don think posessing a Bushmaster, or transporting it across state lines, is illegal.

Thanks for the comments on legal strategy. Makes sense now.
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Old October 24, 2002, 05:21 PM   #8
David Park
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If I had to guess, the charge is possession of a firearm by someone dishonorably discharged from the military. Real easy to make that one stick, and it's federal (whereas the restraining order was issued in Washington state).

I don't think the FBI analyst killed was engaged in federal business while buying shelves at Home Depot. When these guys are charged with murder, they will be charged by the states/counties, probably MD first.
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Old October 24, 2002, 05:24 PM   #9
4V50 Gary
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Is it the Lauterbach Law (no one with restraining order or guilty of sposal abuse can possess a firearm)? If so, they're going to drop the ball on this guy. Better to prosecute him under VA & MD state laws.
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Old October 24, 2002, 08:51 PM   #10
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I think David Park is right. I think there is a question on the 4473 that asks if you were discharged from the service with something other than an honorable. I may be wrong but that question sticks in my mind. That doesn't mean dishonorable is the only other choice. I think you can have a general and a medical discharge also. Neither one is bad, though.
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