I Don’t Know Exactly Where to File This One

Seems an ex-officer stole an assault weapon (you know, those guns that are only good for killing a large number of people without carefully aimed fire) out of a police cruiser, and then used it to rob a bank.

Ex-officer pleads guilty to robbery (Registration required)

Ex-police officer Gary Sahlin pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to robbing a Fleet Bank branch of $23,960 with a semiautomatic assault weapon he stole from a Manchester police cruiser.

Under a plea agreement, the 26-year-old former Manchester patrolman will likely spend 25 years or less in federal prison for pulling the bizarre Aug. 6 heist using a stolen cruiser as a getaway car.

If Sahlin had gone to trial and been convicted on two indictments, he faced a mandatory sentence of 30 years for using a machine gun in the robbery — on top of a sentence for bank robbery. In exchange for his plea, the government dropped the machine gun charge and substituted the lesser charge of using a firearm during a crime of violence.

But here’s the fascinating part:

Sahlin’s lawyer, federal defender Bjorn Lange, said if the case had gone to trial, a jury would have had to decide whether the weapon could be converted into a machine gun and therefore fit the legal definition of a machine gun; Lange contended it wasn’t.

The prosecutor said the U.S. government’s position was that it was a machine gun and Sahlin knew it was a machine gun.

Government information describes the weapon as a Colt M16A1, 5.56-caliber semiautomatic assault weapon. Ollila said it had been a machine gun when owned by the military and had been converted into a semiautomatic for local police.

“Could have been converted”? Either the parts were in the gun during the crime, or they weren’t. IOW, either the gun was capable of full-auto fire at the time of the crime, or it was not. The government’s position seems more than a little bogus to me. But then most juries are pretty ignorant about firearms, so I have no doubt the prosecutor believed he could sell it.

Finally, there’s this:

Manchester Police Chief John Jaskolka, who attended the plea hearing with Deputy Chief Richard O’Leary, said he had no idea what drove the former officer to commit such a reckless and violent crime.

He said police had had no contact with Sahlin since his resignation last December. His departure followed his Nov. 2, 2002 arrest for an alleged domestic assault on his former wife.

Jaskolka said police knew immediately that the bank robber was a police officer or a former officer because no one else could overcome the security devices on a police cruiser. He said no one would know how to start one or be able to get to the semiautomatic locked in a metal box in the trunk.

“It’s the first time a car’s been stolen. It’s not going to happen again,” Jaskolka said.

I love blanket statements like that. They’re always wrong.

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