Sunday, May 26, 2002

Ex-militia leader pleads guilty

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — The former head of the Kentucky State Militia pleaded guilty to two weapons charges and one count of intimidating a witness in a deal that resulted in the dismissal of eight other charges.

        Charles N. Puckett, 55, of Lancaster entered the plea before Judge Jennifer B. Coffman in U.S. District Court in Lexington on Friday.

        Mr. Puckett, who will be sentenced Aug. 29, faces up to three years in prison.

        “Part of the agreement was that Charlie had to agree to remain in custody,” defense attorney Patrick Nash said. “But he gets credit for time served.”

        Under the plea agreement, Mr. Puckett admitted to possessing a machine gun and a .45-caliber handgun even though he had previously been convicted of a felony. In addition, he admitted to attempting to intimidate a witness.

        Mr. Puckett's trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday on 11 counts that involved guns, pipe bombs and almost 35,000 rounds of ammunition.

        The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms seized guns and other weapons from Mr. Puckett's home in Lancaster in late November. Authorities said Mr. Puckett was barred from owning the weapons because of a previous felony conviction.

        Mr. Puckett has called the seizure a theft of private property and a violation of his rights. He has argued that the 1968 federal gun-control act prohibiting felons from owning guns does not apply to him because he was convicted of the felony two years before the law's enactment.

        Mr. Puckett was arrested in February and put under house arrest, but officials said Mr. Puckett managed to slip out of an electronic monitoring bracelet and flee from his home on March 14. He turned himself in to authorities about three weeks later.


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