U.S. Attorney Offers Plea Deals in Capitol Hill Gun Cases
Posted at 4:34 p.m. on Aug. 26, 2014
Prestage was arrested last month for allegedly carrying a firearm into the Cannon House Office Building. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. has offered plea deals to two men who allegedly carried 9mm handguns and ammunition to Capitol Hill in July.
Both Ryan Shucard, a staffer in the office of Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and pork and turkey executive Ronald Prestage face charges of carrying a pistol outside a home or business — a felony that carries up to five years in prison and $5,000 fine.
Court documents filed in both cases show that Machen has proposed an agreement under which each man would plead guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of one year of prison and a $1,000 fine. Under the terms of the nearly identical deals, filed on Aug. 15, federal prosecutors would not pursue any other weapons charges, and would reserve the right to allocution, or addressing the court, at the time of sentencing.
Bringing a gun to Capitol grounds remains, in most circumstances, a violation of federal and D.C. code. But the District’s ban on carrying handguns in public was thrown into limbo when a federal judge declared it unconstitutional on July 26. The city has since been granted a 90-day hold on the Palmer v. District of Columbia ruling, and on Tuesday asked Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. to reconsider.
Machen is not offering this same deal to everyone convicted of violating the law, according to spokesman Bill Miller. He told CQ Roll Call the office is “reviewing pending cases and sentencings, and making decisions with regards to those matters on a case-by-case basis depending upon the operable facts.”
Since the Palmer ruling, local officials have scrambled to figure out a response. Last week, the city asked that the stay be extended to 180 days to give the D.C. Council additional time to craft new gun control legislation.
In the latest court filing, D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan asks for reconsideration of the case “because of a number of errors of law.” He argues the right to carry firearms in public is not at the core of the Second Amendment.
Citing terrorist threats and an “unfortunate history of attempted assassinations by firearm,” Nathan writes that the District is in a unique situation when it comes to guns. He also notes that D.C. is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the nation.
Gun rights supporters and plaintiffs in the case oppose extending the stay, saying it would infringe on their right to carry.
It is unclear if the plea deal will be accepted. A lawyer for Shucard, who is due in Superior Court on Wednesday, did not respond to requests for comment. The 26-year-old staffer told CQ Roll Call earlier this month that he hoped to return to Capitol Hill. Marino’s office confirmed that he remains on unpaid leave.
Prestage, president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, told officers upon his arrest that he has a concealed carry license in South Carolina. He is scheduled to go before a judge in September.
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