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December 29, 2012

Fascinating federal "gun control" criminal charges in wake of NY ambush murder-suicide

This AP story, headlined "New York woman arrested in connection with murder of 2 firefighters," discusses the federal criminal law follow-up to the depressing ambush murder-suicide that took place in upstate New York earlier this week (discussed here).  Here are some details:

William Spengler raised no alarms in prison for 17 years and for more than a decade afterward.  Well-spoken, well-behaved and intelligent, his demeanor was praised by four straight parole boards that nevertheless denied him parole, worried that bludgeoning his 92-year-old grandmother with a hammer showed a violent streak that could explode again.

After his sentence was up in 1996, he stayed out of trouble until 2010, police said Friday. That's when Spengler went to a sporting goods store with a neighbor's daughter, picked out a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle and a shotgun and had her buy the guns that the convicted felon couldn't legally possess.  On Monday, he used the weapons to ambush firefighters lured to a blaze he set at his house in upstate Webster, killing two people and wounding three others before killing himself.

On Friday, state and federal authorities charged the woman who bought the guns, 24-year-old Dawn Nguyen, with lying on a form that said she would be the owner of the guns she bought for Spengler.  The charges involve the semiautomatic rifle and the 12-gauge shotgun that Spengler had with him Monday when volunteer firefighters Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were gunned down.  Three other people, including two other firefighters, were wounded before the 62-year-old Spengler killed himself.  He also had a .38-caliber revolver, but Nguyen is not connected to that gun, police said....

U.S. Attorney William Hochul said Nguyen bought the two guns on June 6, 2010, on behalf of Spengler.  Police used the serial numbers on the guns to trace them to Nguyen.  "She told the seller of these guns, Gander Mountain in Henrietta, N.Y., that she was to be the true owner and buyer of the guns instead of William Spengler," Hochul said.  "It is absolutely against federal law to provide any materially false information related to the acquisition of firearms."

During an interview late on Christmas Eve, she told police she had bought the guns for personal protection and that they were stolen from her vehicle, though she never reported the guns stolen.  The day after the shootings, Nguyen texted an off-duty Monroe County Sheriff's deputy with references to the killings.  She later called the deputy and admitted she bought the guns for Spengler, police said Friday....

As police announced the charges against Nguyen, a clearer portrait of Spengler began to emerge, in the words of wary parole commissioners who kept him locked up until the law said they had to let him go.  At his final parole hearing in 1995, the then-45-year-old Spengler repeated his desire to get out of prison while he still had time to rebuild his life. He also took issue with a previous decision not to release him because the board believed he remained a danger to society....

During four hearings between 1989 and 1995, Spengler quarreled with parole board members over details of his grandmother's killing, insisting each time he'd only hit her three times on the head with a hammer while evidence pointed to 13 blows, and initially saying he couldn't explain why the attack happened....

The transcripts reveal a well-spoken man, proud to be staying out of trouble in prison and earning positions of trust and responsibility, even time out of prison with a work crew that did renovation work in places including a century-old chapel.  The board members mention Spengler testing high for intelligence and noted he came to prison with no other crimes on his record, had only dabbled in drug use and had a spotty work history, mostly as a house painter....

"So why do you think you killed her?" Spengler was asked in 1989.  "I still haven't figured that out. It was matter of just wanting to get out. She was between me and the door," he replied.

"She was just a little, bitty old lady," a board member commented.  "I realize that. That's why I still can't explain it," Spengler said.

This gun-buying back-story and the federal criminal charges facing Dawn Nguyen raise so many issues concerning not only the challenges of gun control, but ultimately sentencing purposes, policies and practices. Federal law imposes serious penalties on any felons possessing any guns — a prohibition which itself seems suspect if the Second Amendment's protection of self-defense rights is to be viewed as a serious natural/constitutional right for all persons — but this case highlights how easily even this widely accepted form of gun control can be evaded.  Sophisticated "smart gun" technology (recently discussed here and here) might help on this front by ensuring only legal/registered buyers can operate the gun, but even a "Lojack-style" gun operation technology would have difficulty prevent "neighborly friends" like Dawn Nguyen from aiding prohibited persons like William Spengler from getting access to firearms.

Speaking of Spengler and Nguyen, I continue to focus on the reality that Spengler apparently served over 17 years as a seemingly changed person in prison and was successful on parole for another decade thereafter.  It seems possible that Dawn Nguyen did not know Spengler was a convicted killer when he asked for help getting firearms; even if she did, Spengler likely convinced her that his criminal past was way in the past.  Moreover, Spengler apparently possessed the guns bought by Nguyen for him for over two years without incident (and another gun, for that matter) before Spengler snapped and turned (back?) into a homicidal evil killer.

Given that it appears Nguyen is ready to admit commiting a federal "gun control" crime, her involvement in this tragic event is now full of challenging federal sentencing issues.  I seriously doubt that Nguyen even considered the prospect of Spengler would commit a serious crime with the guns she bought for him, let alone multiple murders.  Should she still be held criminally responsible at sentencing for the horrific harms caused by the guns she bought based on a lie?  Should the many victims of Spengler's crimes get to be involved in her prosecution and eventual sentencing?  Especially if and when a plea deal is considered by the involved attorneys, is there a particular sentence or sentencing range that is obviously too lenient or too harsh for Nguyen "gun control" crime?  (Bill Otis spotlights some of these issues in this new post at Crime & Consequences titled "Should We Criminally Punish Non-Violent, Regulatory Offenses?".)

A few recent related posts:

December 29, 2012 at 11:35 AM | Permalink

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"William Spengler raised no alarms in prison for 17 years and for more than a decade afterward. Well-spoken, well-behaved and intelligent, his demeanor was praised by four straight parole boards that nevertheless denied him parole, worried that bludgeoning his 92-year-old grandmother with a hammer showed a violent streak that could explode again."

1. One might hope that this would raise at least a particle of doubt about whether being well-behaved in prison constitutes adequate assurance about what a violent criminal will do after release, but it won't. The "mass incarceration" chorus is simply impervious to doubt. This is not because they're stupid or don't recognize evidence when they see it. It's because the chorus is based on ideology, not evidence.

2. I hope readers will take note that the federal criminal charge mentioned here is of exactly the sort against which we see so much rage -- i.e., it's a non-violent, regulatory offense (to wit, a false statements charge). All the lady did was tell a fib about who was really going to get the merchandise.

I mean, where's the harm?

http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2012/12/should-we-criminally-punish-no.html

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 12:11:05 PM

Doug --

I didn't see your last paragraph before I posted the preceding comment. I thank you for referencing my post on C&C.

As to the questions you pose: No, she shouldn't be held directly responsible at sentencing for the murders. She should, however, be held responsible for lying, which she did deliberately. She should also be held responsible because she either knew or should have known about the murderous record of the person with whom, through her deceit, she intended to furnish instruments of murder. Did she think maybe there was a reason he wanted her to lie?

I'm something of an agnostic on gun control, but I am not an agnostic on lying, nor am I an agnostic on holding adults responsible for understanding that when they lie, especially about gun purchases, they are buying future trouble. If they don't want future trouble, they have the option of telling the truth. Fancy that.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 12:24:00 PM

Isnt the real scandal that you can bust an old ladys head in with a hammer and serve less than 20 years in prison?

Posted by: Mark Buehnee | Dec 29, 2012 2:28:21 PM

http://m.naplesnews.com/news/2012/dec/28/florida-teen-arrested-after-carrying-gun-theater/

Posted by: Jd | Dec 29, 2012 2:28:36 PM

Many ATF agents and other federal employees involved in the Fast and Furiou scandal remain uncharged of lying on federal gun purchase documents. They should be the examples for vigorous enforcement of these laws rather than the exceptions.

Posted by: Paddy | Dec 29, 2012 2:47:18 PM

Dawn Nguyen should serve the same sentence, upon prosecution and conviction, as David Gregory. Gregory called and confirmed his actions violated the law and ignored it anyway. Surely a greater offense than Ms Nguyen's ignorance of her actions.

Posted by: iowantwo | Dec 29, 2012 2:48:22 PM

Iowantwo --

"Dawn Nguyen should serve the same sentence, upon prosecution and conviction, as David Gregory."

And what sentence, specifically, should that be?

"Gregory called and confirmed his actions violated the law and ignored it anyway."

Actually, later stories said that he was given conflicting advice.

"Surely a greater offense than Ms Nguyen's ignorance of her actions."

Complete tripe. Ms. Nguyen was unaware that she was lying? Sure.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 3:01:53 PM

But lying on an ATF Form 4473 to facilitate a straw purchase is hardly a “non-violent regulatory offense.”

It's putting a deadly weapon into the hands of a convicted felon.

Posted by: Glen | Dec 29, 2012 3:03:32 PM

Mark Buehnee --

Bingo.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 3:03:59 PM

I clicked through from Instapundit, I don't understand how they found her. It sounds as if the dealer maintains a permanent record of all firearm sales. But I thought the government wasn't permitted to keep those records because it would be too easy for a tyrannical government to disarm the populace, which was the point of the Second Amendment.

Posted by: joe doakes | Dec 29, 2012 3:06:46 PM

Isn't the scandal that Spengler wasn't stopped before he murdered his grandmother? Do you see the echo of Adam Lanza murdering his mother? Both of these people were dangerous before their crimes. The same is true of Harris, Klebold (Columbine), Cho (Virginia Tech), Holmes (Colorado), and on and on.

Posted by: FrankB | Dec 29, 2012 3:07:55 PM

Glen --

"But lying on an ATF Form 4473 to facilitate a straw purchase is hardly a 'non-violent regulatory offense.'"

Sure it is. All you do is check a box and sign your name, neither of which is remotely violent.

"It's putting a deadly weapon into the hands of a convicted felon."

You must have missed the eight zillion posts here about how the blanket prohibition on felons possessing firearms is The March of Fascism 'cause all these felons, you know, need self-defense and stuff.

Be that as it may, putting the weapon in the hands of a convicted felon came AFTER she lied. Thus it was not part of the false statements offense (although it might well constitute accessory before the fact in a state prosecution, depending on how much she knew).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 3:16:56 PM

The stupid girl who bought the guns used at Columbine was never charged. In fact, she was something of a darling of the gun-control crowd (albeit briefly).

Posted by: tom swift | Dec 29, 2012 3:29:53 PM

@joe doakes who said "...It sounds as if the dealer maintains a permanent record of all firearm sales. But I thought the government wasn't permitted to keep those records because it would be too easy for a tyrannical government to disarm the populace, which was the point of the Second Amendment."

The dealer (the FFL) must keep records for 20 years. When a dealer goes out of business those records are turned over to the ATF.

Posted by: wallywonk | Dec 29, 2012 3:31:49 PM

Here is an excellent example of how the death penalty could have been a deterrent. If Spengler had been duly executed after beating an old woman to death, those two fire fighters would still be alive.

Posted by: BurkeanMama | Dec 29, 2012 3:33:54 PM

Before opining on what sentence Ms. Nguyen should receive, perhaps we should know the charges and the penalties specified in the law should she be convicted of said charges.

I'm not a lawyer so I won't wade into the weeds about legal procedure, whether she can be an accessory to murder, and so on. But the law about firearms purchases, as stated, seems simple enough: one is not allowed to be a conduit so that a felon can purchase firearms. She lied about the purpose of the purchase and who was to be the owner. By all means protect her due process and her legal rights at trial, but it seems that this is a charge that will be hard to beat.

So what sentence does the law require upon conviction?

Posted by: Steve White | Dec 29, 2012 3:36:24 PM

@Bill Otis,

Once they had the guns in hand, they no doubt contacted the manufacturers, who have to keep records of who they sell to. Once they found out which dealer or distributor bought the guns from the manufacturers, they could track them down and have them search their records.

It's not the government keeping the records, it's the manufacturers, et al.

It might be a technical difference, but its' a large one.

As to the question of what kind of sentence she should get? The maximum under federal law. Additionally, she should be charged as an accessory to the murders under state law, and if convicted serve the maximum for that as well. Her alleged acts facilitated the murder of two people and wounding of three more.

Posted by: Too Old To Work | Dec 29, 2012 3:39:06 PM

He should have been hanged after killing grandma. It's no more complex than that.

Posted by: egoist | Dec 29, 2012 3:52:36 PM

Manufacturers are required to keep a permanent record of all guns manufactured, by serial number, and including the distributor to whom they sell it. The distributor has a record of every gun they buy, to include to whom they sell it. Every gun dealer has a record of every gun they buy, to include to whom they sell it.

And all that means is that if a gun is found at the scene of a crime they can easily identify which manufacturer, distributor dealer and seller. At that point they already have the gun in their possession. It does nothing to prevent violence.

If she had sold the weapon to him, not knowing he was a felon, she would be in the clear (given competent defense, and fair trial).

Don't buy guns for the other guy.

Posted by: DonM | Dec 29, 2012 3:52:45 PM

I am a strong believer in the second Amendment. I also strongly believe lying on form 4473 should punished to the fullest extent legally allowed. As for Smart Gun technology, everything I have read about it indicates it can be easily defeated by just gaining hold of the ring or the implanted chip. I do admit that getting the implanted chip would be harder and messier, but to someone who is planning on killing people anyway it would not be that much of a deterrent. Also trusting my life or someone else,s life to a firearm that could become inoperative if the batteries had run down or could not be used by another responsible person is a nonstarter for me. I am a retired carpenter.

Posted by: Allan Erickson | Dec 29, 2012 4:06:31 PM

Bill:

""William Spengler raised no alarms in prison for 17 years and for more than a decade afterward. Well-spoken, well-behaved and intelligent, his demeanor was praised by four straight parole boards that nevertheless denied him parole, worried that bludgeoning his 92-year-old grandmother with a hammer showed a violent streak that could explode again."

1. One might hope that this would raise at least a particle of doubt about whether being well-behaved in prison constitutes adequate assurance about what a violent criminal will do after release, but it won't. The "mass incarceration" chorus is simply impervious to doubt. This is not because they're stupid or don't recognize evidence when they see it. It's because the chorus is based on ideology, not evidence.

2. I hope readers will take note that the federal criminal charge mentioned here is of exactly the sort against which we see so much rage -- i.e., it's a non-violent, regulatory offense (to wit, a false statements charge). All the lady did was tell a fib about who was really going to get the merchandise.

I mean, where's the harm?"

The harm is possibly one of selling to a "violent" felon, but what about to a "non-violent felon", you know, one who doesn't tell the "whole truth" to an agent of the federal gubermint or may have miscalculated their taxes.

Martha Stewart cannot own a gun, but the "Fast and Furious" crowd goes on with a clean slate.

The Second Amendment seems to have been circumvented by gubermint criminal elements.

Posted by: albeed | Dec 29, 2012 4:14:18 PM

albeed --

"The harm is possibly one of selling to a "violent" felon, but what about to a "non-violent felon", you know, one who doesn't tell the "whole truth" to an agent of the federal gubermint or may have miscalculated their taxes."

It's not that she didn't tell "the whole truth." It's that she flat-out lied so that a convicted murderer could obtain a murder weapon. But if a point be made of it, is there something wrong with telling the whole truth?

Nor is it a criminal offense merely to "miscalculate" your taxes. If you cheat like crazy, yes, that's a crime, as it should be.

"Martha Stewart cannot own a gun..."

Poor Martha. But fear not -- her security detail owns plenty, and can mow you down faster than you can say "Eric Holder."

"...but the 'Fast and Furious' crowd goes on with a clean slate."

I assure you, I didn't vote for the fellow who hired the aforementioned Mr. Holder.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 4:27:31 PM

Did he have to register that hammer? The fact is that he should have been serving life or should have received the death sentence. If someone is bent on murdering someone or some people there many ways that can be done.

Posted by: Charles | Dec 29, 2012 4:39:02 PM

In truth, the crime for which Nguyen is being prosecuted for is *not* giving/selling a gun to a felon, it is giving/selling a gun to a person who she trusted, who then went out and committed mass murder.

Had she immediately used the 'Hillary Defense', pled the Fifth, and claimed insufficient memory to accurately answer any of the Police questions, she would not be facing serious jail time. Heck, she might even be in the running for the next SecState position opening soon.

Posted by: Georg Felis | Dec 29, 2012 4:59:50 PM

"Don't lie for the other guy!"

But, if you are thinking about it, remember:
"If you can't do the time, don't do the crime!"

The Feds are going to put her away, and the State's Attorney will crucify her, which is more than they did (and should have done) for Spengler.

Posted by: askeptic | Dec 29, 2012 5:12:31 PM

Nguyon should be charged the same as the "Fast and Furious" straw purchasers in Arizona whose guns also were involved in murders.

Posted by: HMS | Dec 29, 2012 5:18:45 PM

On the one hand, I have trouble with punishing stupid people just for being stupid.

On the other, "If you're gonna be stupid, ya gotta be tough," as an old man told me, back when I was very young and did something painfully foolish.

So, the question remains: Do we punish a young woman for being conned by an ex-con? For being victimized by a known violent felon?

...or did she willingly and knowingly violate the law?

Until we can positively answer that last question w/o any doubt, the rest is just gossip and rumor.

Posted by: Warren Bonesteel | Dec 29, 2012 5:37:53 PM

Warren Bonesteel --

"So, the question remains: Do we punish a young woman for being conned by an ex-con? For being victimized by a known violent felon? ...or did she willingly and knowingly violate the law?"

Assuming that this is the true question, isn't the best way to find the answer a jury a trial at which the government will have the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt?

Of course it's not the true question. It is irrelevant to a false statements charge that you were "conned" by whoever asked you to lie. The only relevant things are (1) were you an adult of sound mind, (2) did you give false statement, and (3) did you do so knowing that it was false.

It doesn't matter if you had a "good" motive for lying, like being nice to Mr. Grandma Killer. You can't lie anyway. Period. It's just not that hard to tell the truth.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 6:18:09 PM

HMS --

"Nguyon should be charged the same as the "Fast and Furious" straw purchasers in Arizona whose guns also were involved in murders."

Because some people get away with crime, does that mean all should?

Many murderers and rapists will, for widely varying reasons, never be brought to justice. Does that mean that when a murderer or rapist is caught, he too should be winked at because, after all, There Is Unfairness In The World?

Good grief.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 6:24:31 PM

Bill:

You're right, Martha's security detail can take care of her. What about the poor non-violent felon that must live in places like east Detroit or south Chicago because of his record but cannot defend himself and his family. A long time ago, I stated that you were an apologist for the gubermint. Note that the "state" is not my God.

There are more than 50 shades of grey. Your gubermint oversimplifies everything to the point of tyranny.

Good grief.

Posted by: albeed | Dec 29, 2012 6:41:58 PM

albeed --

The notion that felons want to own guns for "defense" is largely a fantasy perpetrated by gubermint-paid PD's, among many others. The real reason felons want guns is grotesquely illustrated by this case, which you completely avoid mentioning.

And it's not "my" gubermint. I voted against Mr. Obama twice. I am an employee of a private, Catholic university (which I think is having a big fight with the gubermint about the ACA mandate for contraception coverage).

There were two individuals who were working on behalf of the gubermint involved in this case, however. Their names were Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka. They were the firefighters that Mr. Previously Convicted Felon -- acting in innocent self defense, dontcha know -- gunned down after luring them to his neighborhood by torching some houses.

Do you think Mr. Chiapperini and Mr. Kaczowka should be condemned for being cogs of the gubermint? Why not? They are -- uh, they were -- working for it more than I am.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 7:06:57 PM

Bill:

You will notice that my argument is not about whether violent felons or mentally unstable individual (Spengler) should own guns or be enabled by others to possess them. The answer is no. My problem is how we define a felon. I would like to find an acceptable means (I don't mean simple incarceration and meeting their sentencing requirements) for those currently classified as felons, whose crime had absolutely no indication of violence or mental instability, to eventually be permitted the same second Amendment rights as most everyone else.

BTW, your first three paragraphs are building up a straw man to knock it down. It means nothing to me. I didn't vote for the current imperial leader either but also know that little that is meaningful would be changed if we voted in the Conservative.

I am very sorry for the firemen and consider this a tragedy. They were not cogs in the gubermint but human beings, like you and me.

Posted by: albeed | Dec 29, 2012 8:00:21 PM

albeed --

OK. I think you're a good guy at heart, always have.

Happy New Year!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 8:04:51 PM

Bill, Doug, SC, rodsmith, et al.

I know that you are sincere in your beliefs also. Happy New Year to you also!

Posted by: albeed | Dec 29, 2012 8:13:55 PM

She will be charged with murder. If you commit a crime, supplying a felon with guns, then that person commits another crime you can be held accountable for that secondary crime. First thing you do, is never talk to the cops. EVER.

Posted by: David K | Dec 29, 2012 9:03:12 PM

David K --

I talk to the cops all the time. Some are jerks, true. Most are perfectly reasonable people. A few are heroic.

One reason I talk to them is that I have nothing to hide. It's really easy to stay out of trouble with the cops if you act with normal respect for other people and their property, stay away from drugs, and tell the truth.

The problem for Ms. Ngyuen is not that she talked to the cops. The problem is that she lied when well established law forbids it. The authorities would have found out about this anyway, I assure you.

I doubt she is chargeable with murder as a principal, but I do think she is possibly guilty as an accessory before the fact.

She made her own bed when she decided to lie in order to help a once and future killer get a murder weapon. If she finds the bed uncomfortable, that's just too bad. She could easily have made another choice. Honest people do.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 11:14:25 PM

Bill Bill Bill shame on you!

"It doesn't matter if you had a "good" motive for lying, like being nice to Mr. Grandma Killer. You can't lie anyway. Period. It's just not that hard to tell the truth."

You DO recognize that the biggest set of lieing sack of shits right now are our glorious politicians in washington. Sorry till we deal with them we have no right to call anyone else out for the same.

Just look at the current bit of stupidity. They kicked the can down the road TWO years ago on this budget shit. Stating they could deal with it. Two years later we are again fucked up because these fuckup's refuse to do their jobs.

Little retards should be glad i'm not over thier asses. They all, President, house and senate members would find their asses sitting in a nice big warehouse surrounded by armed guards with the following orders

If they try to leave and do not have a signed balanced budget in hand. KILL THEM ALL!

The retards IN the building would get the following

You will stay in this building till you have a signed balanced budget for the NEXT TWO YEARS. Till that happens you don't Eat, You don't get paid!, you don't sleep!

If you try and leave this building before this is done. Guards outside have orders to Kill you all!


Sorry but it's long past time they either get their shit togeher to DIE so we can replace the whole bunch!


OH wait! I AM OVER THEM. We all are we are American Citizens!.....might want to remind these govt fuckups that situations like this were the main reason the 2nd was written and placed in the Constitution in the first place!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 29, 2012 11:39:15 PM

Happy New Year to you too Bill and everyone else. Hopefully we can have a better year to come!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 29, 2012 11:40:53 PM

rodsmith --

And a Happy New Year to you too!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2012 11:49:22 PM

We can celebrate the New Year like the Old Year, with a trial by media.

Posted by: George | Dec 30, 2012 12:27:45 AM

The manufacturer, distributor, and retail seller all maintain records of which firearms are sold to whom. If someone in law enforcement has a legitimate interest in a particular firearm (as in this case), they initiate a 'trace' (via the FBI, iirc) that will lead to, at the very least, the first retail seller of the firearm and thus the customer that purchased it.

Some may recall that the trace on the rifle that the Beltway "Snipers" used ended at the retailer; his records showed it as still being in inventory. He claimed it must have been shoplifted--quite a feat in itself, given the specific store environment* -- but a subsequent ATF audit showed an unbelievably high number of lost or missing firearms, and the owner's FFL was pulled.

--------------------------
*I've been in that store both before the Beltway incidents, and after the change in ownership, and at neither time did the sales people just hand you a firearm and let you wander around unsupervised. Even when it's really busy, the protocol is and was the same as in every other gun store I've ever seen--if there's more customers than there are sales clerks, you just have to wait, and when you get a clerk you have his more or less undivided attention until you're done. So color me more than suspicious as to the "shoplifting" claim.

Posted by: Kirk Parker | Dec 30, 2012 12:32:32 AM

The manufacturer, distributor, and retail seller all maintain records of which firearms are sold to whom. If someone in law enforcement has a legitimate interest in a particular firearm (as in this case), they initiate a 'trace' that will lead to, at the very least, the first retail seller of the firearm and thus the customer that purchased it.

Some may recall that the trace on the rifle that the Beltway "Snipers" used ended at the retailer. He claimed it must have been shoplifted--quite a feat in itself, given the specific store environment* -- but a subsequent ATF audit showed an unbelievably high number of lost or missing firearms, and the owner's FFL was pulled.

--------------------------
*I've been in this store both before the Beltway incidents, and after the change in ownership, and the sales people don't just hand you a firearm and let you wander around unsupervised. Even when it's really busy, the protocol is the same as in every other gun store I've ever been it--if there's more customers than there are sales clerks, you just have to wait, and when you get a clerk you have his more or less undivided attention until you're done.

Posted by: Kirk Parker | Dec 30, 2012 12:38:20 AM

I want fairness credit for these novel defense side suggestions.

1) She is the subject of outcome bias, in violation of Fifth Amendment procedural due process right to a fair hearing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outcome_bias

If the crime were shooting through a neighbor's window, would she be prosecuted for the same lie? In order to establish outcome bias, demand total e-discovery of the prosecutor's work and personal computers. To search for this improper motive.

2) Hitting someone with a hammer 13 times is not manslaughter according to the New York Code, it is murder. She should sue the prosecutor who negotiated the original plea deal, and the judge who approved it. She should try to pierce their awful immunities to get at the true culprits in this case.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 30, 2012 4:21:27 AM

George --

"We can celebrate the New Year like the Old Year, with a trial by media."

What the "media" have reported is that a) she was a straw purchaser of a powerful rifle for a previously convicted killer, b) that, as such, she lied about who the true owner was going to be, c) that, thereafter, she initially lied to the authorities by saying that the guns had been stolen from her, and, d) that on her own, she phoned someone she knew in the sheriff's office and admitted that she bought them for Spengler from the getgo, but in her name.

Please give all evidence you have that any of this is false or misleading.

P.S. Media accounts of this story are not a "trial." They are what we want and expect from the media when it covers, as it should, a major crime. She'll have a trial later, if she wants one, which I doubt. She'll very likely take a plea deal, which almost all defendants do. Then you can complain about that as the product of coercion from Nazi prosecutors.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 30, 2012 8:55:23 AM

Supremacy,

"If the crime were shooting through a neighbor's window, would she be prosecuted for the same lie?"

Sure, people get prosecuted for straw purchases all the time. Well, OK, not if you work for the ATF, apparently, but otherwise yes.

Posted by: Kirk Parker | Dec 30, 2012 12:25:35 PM

"Federal law imposes serious penalties on any felons possessing any guns — a prohibition which itself seems suspect if the Second Amendment's protection of self-defense rights is to be viewed as a serious natural/constitutional right for all persons"

An absolute ban on "felons" especially given the present day application of that term might be a problem, but as Heller notes, the felony exemption is legitimate under current law. The fact different rules were applied to certain 'people' was ridiculed by Stevens in dissent, but in Citizens United, he didn't find it a problem that different people had different requirements under campaign finance.

The facts here are tragic but this is a reason problem -- the law prohibits false statements in part because it just isn't possible to know for sure what other people will do with the guns. There was a lag here but in some other case a person might be tricked to buy a gun which will be used illicitly more quickly.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 30, 2012 2:06:56 PM

[sorry, posted too soon]

"Federal law imposes serious penalties on any felons possessing any guns — a prohibition which itself seems suspect if the Second Amendment's protection of self-defense rights is to be viewed as a serious natural/constitutional right for all persons"

An absolute ban on "felons" especially given the present day application of that term might be a problem, but as Heller notes, the felony exemption is legitimate under current law. The fact different rules were applied to certain 'people' was ridiculed by Stevens in dissent, but in Citizens United, he didn't find it a problem that different people had different requirements under campaign finance.

The facts here are tragic but this is a reason the law prohibits false statements because it just isn't possible to know for sure what other people will do with the guns. There was a lag here but in some other case a person might be tricked to buy a gun which will be used illicitly more quickly.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 30, 2012 2:08:57 PM

Mr. Bill,

You start by begging the question. You argue that we can presume guilt because the government provided enough hearsay evidence to assume guilt. That is exactly what a trial by media is.

Then go you go on to explain what a trial by media isn't (a real trial). That is obvious and irrelevant.

Let's start with what a trial by media is. A Google search for "trial by media" finds these hits.

For example:

Trial by Media as a Legal Problem: A Comparative Analysis

by Giorgio Resta

"What are the risks of treating legal trials like elections, to be won through the use of the television and the newspapers? What is the actual significance of the presumption of innocence in a media-saturated society? What are the limits of the public’s right to be informed about ongoing judicial proceedings? These are some of the questions that this book explores in the attempt to offer valuable solutions to the debate. It looks at the relationship between justice and the mass media from a comparative law perspective, providing a critical overview of the different techniques used to solve the conflicts among the values of free press, fair trial and human dignity. The book concludes that it is an inescapable task for every legal system to prevent a socially valuable activity – such as informing the public about the workings of the justice process – from being transformed by market pressures into a “power without responsibility”."

Posted by: George | Dec 30, 2012 3:57:05 PM

George --

I gave four facts reported by the media. I then asked you to please supply all evidence you have that any of them was false or misleading.

You supplied none. Fancy that.

But I'll go you one better. Please supply any evidence you have that a single specific fact I recited is EVEN DISPUTED by her, or anyone representing her, or indeed anyone at all having direct knowledge of the case.

Should I wait?

P.S. Personally, I like the First Amendment and the freedom of the press to inform the public about indisputably newsworthy events, including how Mr. Spengler got his assault rifle. If you don't like it, that's your right in a (still) free country.

P.P.S. If Ms. Nguyen wants a change of venue to a different federal district in a distant state, all the better. I'd welcome her to the Eastern District of Virginia. I'd temporarily go back to work in the USAO for zero dollars to do her case. I always found it energizing to deal with defendant-liars. And there was plenty of business.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 30, 2012 4:40:11 PM

Joe --

I agree with your comment, and especially this line: "The facts here are tragic but this is a reason the law prohibits false statements because it just isn't possible to know for sure what other people will do with the guns."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 30, 2012 4:43:16 PM

Bill: How many times has the Supreme Court held that the police, agents of the prosecutor, may lie to defendants? Many.

As a result, innocent people go to prison. The real criminals troll our streets for victims.

Until government lying is prohibited, it is almost a patriotic duty to lie to government officials. These are agents of the greatest criminal syndicate in history, the lawyer profession. They have infiltrated and taken control of the three branches of the government of an empire class nation with nuclear weapons. We should not pity Mexico because the police can be bribed. Here, it is as if the Drug Cartel ran government, and made 99% of the policy decisions, mostly in favor of its own enrichment and empowerment.

The true aim of the paper work for gun sales is to track and disarm the population. In the case above, I would like to see the defense bar's standard of due care include orchestrating the personal destruction of the prosecution, to protect the interest of the defendant. Go to his family and church, ask they ostracize him. Call for all service and product providers to boycott him. Do total e-discovery on the personal and work computers, and all devices. Post the content to the web.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 30, 2012 6:08:08 PM

Albeed: Thanks for the good wishes. Please, let me know when you find the comments no longer entertaining, even if in a bad way, like an itch.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 30, 2012 6:28:22 PM

SC --

With all respect, a person's obligation to tell the truth does not depend on the moral quality or behavior of those around him, in the government or outside it. It is a freestanding virtue that cannot be either buttressed or diminished by the behavior of others.

If we adopted the tit-for-tat prescription you suggest, it would be a quick road to the lowest common denominator. In other words, in short order, we'd all be lying.

As you are aware from reading this forum, there is plenty of lying going on already. We don't need an invitation, much less an asserted "duty," to lie yet more.

The reason to tell the truth has nothing to do with who other people are, and everything to do with who YOU are.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 31, 2012 12:20:47 AM

Horse shit bill! If anything those high upstanding govt stooges you talk about have a HIGHER AUTHORITY to tell the damn truth! After all last time i looked the aveage citizen doee not TAKE AN OATH to do so unlilke the lier's in our govt.

Like the bible says till you can pull the mote in your own eye you got no business talking about anyone elses!

Works for lieing sack of shit govt stooges as well.

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 31, 2012 12:30:44 AM

Mr Bill said:

George --

I gave four facts reported by the media. I then asked you to please supply all evidence you have that any of them was false or misleading.

---

And I didn't fall for your straw man. Fancy that.

Posted by: George | Dec 31, 2012 12:31:03 AM

interesting!

"We don't need an invitation, much less an asserted "duty," to lie yet more."

Of course you ignore the fact that based on any number of retarded and illegal rulings from the courts all the way up to those traitors on the USSC!

The govt and it's agents not only have a RIGHT but a DUTY to lie like rugs when dealing with it's own citizens!

So since last time i looked at the Constitution our fucked up govt get's it AUTHORTIY from US then it follows WE have that SAME AUTHORITY!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 31, 2012 12:33:40 AM

Bill: Nice review of Supreme Court decisions on police misrepresentation, clear to the non-lawyer. Here:

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2842/what-can-the-police-lie-about-while-conducting-an-interrogation

Basically, a police lie may not be coercive for a confession to be admissible. "You will lose your kids," that is coercive.

The police are the agents of the prosecution. The prosecution has clear duties to the defendant, enumerated in statutes covering the Rules of Conduct, the Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the Rules of Evidence. Underlying these numerous explicit rules, is the right in the Fifth Amendment to due process, and to a fair hearing.

The many duties in statute and case law are listed here, but not exhaustively:

http://supremacyclaus.blogspot.com/2007/05/ending-lawyer-immunity-from-legal.html

An even more ancient duty is to come at a defendant with clean hands. If one's hands are dirty, and the judge refuses to end the case because of his pro-government bias, what do you suggest be done by a defendant? Go to jail with a good sense of morality, after having told the truth?

I suggest a moral symmetry must be maintained. The rule broken must have external validity as useful to public benefit, and not just to rent seeking lawyers. The other side should have clean hands.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 31, 2012 2:08:30 AM

George --

Since you didn't answer, I'll ask again.

Please supply any evidence you have that any of the four reported facts I recited about Ms. Ngyuen is EVEN DISPUTED by her, or anyone representing her, or indeed by anyone at all having direct knowledge of the case.

Just pretending that we know nothing reliable about what she did to supply Stengler with the murder weapon because no trial has yet occurred is arrant nonsense, even by your standards. It stands on the same footing as pretending that we don't know Stengler killed to two firefighters because there has been no judicial determination that he did.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 31, 2012 3:18:14 AM

rodsmith --

Two questions: Doesn't the Bible also command that a person not bear false witness; and do you tell your kids that it's OK to lie to the cops (or the teacher or principal or coach or other authority figure -- like maybe even you) if the kid thinks the authority figure does not meet the kid's view of proper moral standards?

When I was a kid, my parents made it real clear that I was not to lie to any of those people, ever. If I had a problem with how they were behaving, I could always talk to them about it. But self-help lying was out, period.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 31, 2012 3:28:18 AM

SC --

What I believe you overlook is that defendants virtually always view the authorities as having unclean hands because, gosh, I mean, everybody does it and it's not that bad and the rich guy won't miss his wallet anyway and they're just picking on me and.....and....and........

The ever-present human tendency toward self-indugence and self-justification is far too massive to allow self-issued licenses to lie. What will actually happen is you'll get nothing but lying in every single case no matter how the police behave. No conceivable justice system could function in such a world.

But the utilitarian case for truth-telling is not the main argument, although it's conclusive. The main argument is that the obligation to be truthful is an independent moral axiom.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 31, 2012 3:45:29 AM

nice

"Two questions: Doesn't the Bible also command that a person not bear false witness; and do you tell your kids that it's OK to lie to the cops (or the teacher or principal or coach or other authority figure -- like maybe even you) if the kid thinks the authority figure does not meet the kid's view of proper moral standards?

When I was a kid, my parents made it real clear that I was not to lie to any of those people, ever. If I had a problem with how they were behaving, I could always talk to them about it. But self-help lying was out, period."

What we were tought and the children in our family are still tought is give like to like. So if your a lieing sack of shit don't be suprise if i have no problem lieing to you.

You know that old saying don't you You can't cheat an honest man! Same thing works here. The criminals in our govt through operation gunrunner shipped 1,000's if not 10's of thousands of illegal guns south of th border! They let people they KNOW had no legal right to guns get them. So seems very very two-faced to now talk shit to anyone else for the same act. Think if it was me i'd be up for muder now becasue i'd have had to break the neck of the two-faced DA who was dumb enough to tell me i was going to be prosecutted for the same act our criminal govt has been doing for YEARS.


as for this!

"What will actually happen is you'll get nothing but lying in every single case no matter how the police behave. No conceivable justice system could function in such a world."

Hmm maybe just Maybe the people will get fed up with a govt and its agents i.e. the USSC and the lower courts who keep patting these fucking CRIMINALS...ie cops and govt agents on the fucking head when they get caught and start hanging the bunh of them!

You know "Judge Hemp!"

let's see the USSC deal with that

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 31, 2012 10:30:12 AM

rodsmith --

So your parents taught you that when, in your opinion, they were lying to you, it was OK to lie to them???

If so, they were very, very unusual parents.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 31, 2012 10:52:53 AM

.

Posted by: - | Dec 31, 2012 3:33:41 PM

Bill: " The main argument is that the obligation to be truthful is an independent moral axiom."

Does that mean you disagree with Supreme Court holdings allowing non-coercive lying by police? "Your friend has told us everything to save himself."

If you do feel they are wrong, did you ever accept evidence from your FBI agents, for example, from a sting operation, where they bought stolen art or paid to buy drugs? I am asking about real life prosecutions and the conduct of your agents, what you did with evidence if it came from a deception? I am sure you obeyed all the Rules and duties of the prosecution to the defendant. I am asking if you met your own higher standard in the midst of prosecuting real bad guys, one higher than that of the Supreme Court?

In an adversarial situation, for example in a declared war, is deception OK, such as a camouflage uniform, or fake wooden tanks loading onto ships for Calais, before the invasion of Normandy? While not as adversarial as war, you have to agree prosecution is adversarial, especially of mala prohibita, and other rules not externally validated as beneficial to the public safety, e.g. the war on drugs, while the most addictive and deadly substances, alcohol and nicotine are legal. What I am implying is that your professional conduct will be more persuasive than your official viewpoints.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 31, 2012 9:01:37 PM

hmm

"rodsmith --

So your parents taught you that when, in your opinion, they were lying to you, it was OK to lie to them???

If so, they were very, very unusual parents."

i take it you are just going to ignore the 10,000 news articles showing the entire sytem is based on lies and fraud.

The 1,000's of court cases where cops have been proven to lie and lie and lie and it's all just ignored.
The 1,000's of cases where when said lies are exposed the higher courts just call it "harmless eror as if any error can ever be harmless"

Sorry they have been Proven to be a total group of lieing shits!

There for i have no problem returning it to them with interest!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 1, 2013 2:46:00 AM

SC --

Happy New Year.

"Does that mean you disagree with Supreme Court holdings allowing non-coercive lying by police? 'Your friend has told us everything to save himself.'"

No, I agree with those rulings. I also agree, for example, with other aspects of the law that allow the police to use force, up to and including shooting someone to death, in situations where a private citizen would get into major trouble if he did it.

Further, I agree with the independent moral axiom against intentionally killing another human being. At the same time, I believe in the death penalty, in killing the enemy during war, and in assassinating extremely dangerous terrorists.

Does any of this make me a hypocrite? Hardly.

What you and rodsmith are missing is that agents of the sovereign are legally and morally commissioned to do things to advance the public welfare, and in accordance with law, that private citizens would be acting illegally and immorally if they did.

Agents are allowed to use non-coercive deceit in questioning suspects because it is a means to get at a larger truth the suspect otherwise would conceal, and getting the larger truth serves an important public good. But Ms. Ngyuen is not allowed to use deceit to obtain an otherwise unobtainable gun to give to a murderous hoodlum who beat his grandmother to death. That does not advance any public good and is, to the contrary, the road to more murder.

C'mon, SC, you are way too smart for me to have to explain this. No normal person thinks that accepted moral rules in the conduct of private life apply in exactly the same way to sovereign agents in the conduct of public life. Every 12 year-old knows this and so do you. And the inevitable occasional misconduct of such agents doesn't change the mix one whit.

Were the rule otherwise, every American GI in WWII would have to be branded immoral if he killed a German soldier. "Thou shalt not kill," after all.

P.S. There are, of course, instances in which private person ought also to depart from moral axioms. When your mother has terminal cancer and is going to die in six months, and your seven year-old, sensing that she's sick, asks you with tears in his eyes if his beloved Grandma will be OK, you don't say, "No, she'll be dead before you're eight." You are permitted evasion in such circumstances in the name of protecting a helpless child from things he can't handle all at once.

As I say, you know this already, and neither it nor any other exception licenses you, me or anyone else to lie to the cops.

Don't lie. It's not right and it's not smart.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 1, 2013 9:03:35 AM

Me and Bill agreeing ... well, the year ended well, huh?

May 2013 be a good one for all around, even those who others might think are misguided in the extreme! :)

Posted by: Joe | Jan 1, 2013 12:17:45 PM

Bill: These are good points. One might add that if one disapproves of a law, one can have it repealed by the the legislature. If an official is unfair, one may demand recusal or file a complaint. The standard lawyer advice is to remain silent with government officials, which is always the best advice.

To return to this prosecution, she would not have been prosecuted but for the horrible outcome. So the motive is improper, to scapegoat and reflects outcome bias. This improper motive justifies the pushback, at least through discovery of the prosecution computers, at least through a motion for summary judgment, there being a two year delay and a bad outcome. She was unlucky, that her neighbor turned out this way. Thus the bad lottery in Prof. Berman's lottery idea in his argument with Federalist.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 1, 2013 12:35:21 PM

no bill i do get it. The problem is You keep missing the point and this statement proves it!

"What you and rodsmith are missing is that agents of the sovereign are legally and morally commissioned to do things to advance the public welfare, and in accordance with law, that private citizens would be acting illegally and immorally if they did."

Just what FUCKING soverign do we have? I seem to have missed god descending and announcing I apoint dumb shit number 1 my soverign over you all in american!. Sorry but that's the ONLY way to get a soverign!

Last one we had got ran out of the country in the 1700's

What we have are EMPLOYEES! Sorry my employees do not have more authority then I do and they sure as hell don't have RIGHTS i don't!

As long as the courts keep kissing the crooks who run this country on the head when they get caught lieing or facing evidence or witness testimaony or shit like gunrunner and it's ilk.... anything is fair when dealing with the liers!

Sorry untill you can point out a job description for a govt agent who is NOT a deep cover sleeper in bumbfuck russia or china.

FORGET IT!

In my book a govt agent who lies, cheats, steals, fakes evidence and reports! they are bigger crimianls then the ones they are accusing.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 1, 2013 12:41:39 PM

Rod: Without speaking for Bill, sovereign is just the government. Its privilege to kill and lie comes from us, as long as it serves our safety and welfare purposes. Its permissions come from elections. Don't like it? Elect someone different. Lobby to change the Rules. Good luck with that if you decide to do it. While they can lie, if you lie to a government official, that is a crime, often more serious than the crime being investigated. Martha Stewart made $40,000 on an insider trading deal. She could have returned this pocket change, paid a small fine. She chose to lie to the FBI, and went to jail for that, not for the insider trading.

Bill is describing the way things are. You are describing the way things should be, if life were fair. I see both your points.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 1, 2013 12:59:28 PM

not quite SC according to every history i've seen a "soverign" was at the begining GOD!

when we stopped beling that bullshit

it became

Was Descended from God!

that lasted a while then was recognized for the bullshit it was!

Then it became Appointed by God!

in the 1700's we called that for the bullshit it was! and ran them out of the nation!

WE then formed a govt to deal with the day to day operations and PUT individuals into that govt....i.e. EMPLOYEES!

Sorry my employee's do not have any authority I DON'T!


Our problem is that our EMPLOYEES have been brainwashed to belive THEY are the BOSS not wage slave! like the rest of us!

Their shit stinks just like ours!

If they commit a CRIME they should be punsihed just like us!

Failure to do that will in the fulness of time result in nothing but a wave of bloodshed as that unequal preferance is rebalanced.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 2, 2013 2:53:15 AM

as for this!


"Its privilege to kill and lie comes from us, as long as it serves our safety and welfare purposes."

Considering total mess the country has been in for years, the failure of the govt to even manage to agree it's dayight for decades.

The thought those total fuckups could even know what serves our safety and welface is laughable.

plus last time i looked the original ideal for our govt was to create one that would have LIMITED power and control with just enough authority to do the LIMITED things specificaly enumerated in the constitution.

What we have now is a team of horses asses how have now taken the bit into their teeth and rer happly gallping for the edge of the CLIFF!

NOTHING safe in that for ANYONE!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 2, 2013 2:57:40 AM

Without speaking for Bill, he might give the standard lawyer answer. Run for election, propose legislation, get support for it. I would support you, by vote and contributions.

I have my doubt a majority of voters would support you, given the nearly suicidal voting for Obama by Blacks, Jews, females, the young, the Hispanic, the homosexual. They voted against interest for some reason that has yet to be explained to me. They may have thought of his paying them off with government benefits. Instead, the young especially are going to get a whopping bill for his wasted spending, especially on self centered old people like us. They are going to get a no new jobs economy suffering the Obama Flu for 4 years, until this Hugo Chavez of the North is out of office. Blacks will get poorer and more murders, and crime victimization, as always, under the Democratic Party, the party of the lawyer, and of the lawyer founded and run fraternal organization, the KKK.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 2, 2013 4:26:51 AM

lOL you mean a vote using the rigged electronic machines that in the majority of areas have no hardcodpy backup or any way to go back an verify the actual individual votes!

RIGHT!

Then there is the fact that the voting sytem is from top to bottom run by the so-called two parties that have run the country for 150 years....

again RIGHT!

that's honest! Right up there with any judge in american who can say with a straight face when dealing with a case between a citizen and the govt...i'm not partial!

bull shit!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 2, 2013 12:37:40 PM

rodsmith --

"Right up there with any judge in american who can say with a straight face when dealing with a case between a citizen and the govt...i'm not partial!"

You might want to keep in mind that Justice Scalia and his four conservative colleagues on the Court ruled in favor of the citizen and against the government in one of the most imporant Constitutional cases of recent years, Heller.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 3, 2013 9:21:04 AM

LOL so what bill. Even a Broken clock is right twice a day.

So they got 1 case out of a 1,000 right.

As for heller i think they choked in the clutch on that one as well.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 3, 2013 11:07:36 AM

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