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April 15, 2009

"Man shoots self, gets 33 months"

The title of this post is the comical headline given to this local story of a recent federal sentencing. Here is the fuller explanation:

A Winslow man who accidentally shot himself in the leg with a stolen gun more than four years ago was sentenced in U.S. District Court on April 8 to 33 months for violating firearm laws.

Dennis L. Whitman, 26, also was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Woodcock to three years of supervised released after he completes his sentence. Whitman pleaded guilty in January to possession of a stolen gun and possession of a gun after being convicted of a crime of domestic violence.

He was charged after Winslow police were called on Aug. 26, 2004, to MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Thayer unit in Waterville to investigate an accidental shooting. Whitman, according to court documents, accidentally shot himself with a .22-caliber handgun that was tucked into his waistband when he was helping a friend move furniture into an apartment.

Whitman told police that he had wrapped the gun in a blue towel and given it to the friend he had been with when he was shot and told him to get rid of it because it was stolen. When interviewed, Whitman’s friend said he had taken the gun to the Waterville-Winslow bridge and thrown it into the Kennebec River.

A Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department dive team found the gun, according to court documents. By tracing the serial number, police confirmed that it had been reported stolen on Aug. 19, 2004, from a Searsport home.  Whitman admitted that he knew the gun had been stolen but refused to tell police who had given it to him.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2007 and arrested the next month. He pleaded guilty to the charges in December. He faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.  Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, he faced between 33 and 41 months in prison.

Though the federal charges in this case are legally distinct from the New York state gun charges facing Plaxico Buress, he and his lawyers will surely take no comfort from a headline suggesting that nearly three years in prison is the going rate for stupid self-shootings.

April 15, 2009 at 06:24 PM | Permalink


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The going rate for self shootings that are malicious rather than merely stupid is the death penalty. 33 months is a deal by comparison.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Apr 15, 2009 8:07:58 PM

Too bad for this guy that he and his friend didn't talk to a lawyer before the police showed up. If they had both just declined to answer any questions, it's doubtful, based on the above, the police could have made a case. The lesson, as always: never talk to the police.

Posted by: Observer | Apr 16, 2009 10:08:18 AM

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