Dozens Imprisoned for Violating Non-Existent Federal Gun Control Law

Sunday, June 17, 2012
Terrell McCullum
Federal prosecutors in North Carolina have been aware for nearly a year that dozens of North Carolinians currently incarcerated in federal prisons should not be there, but they have done next to nothing to help them, and in at least once case are actually trying to prevent an innocent man’s release, according to an investigation by USA Today.
This bizarre, Kafkaesque, nightmare arose over the past nine years, as federal courts in North Carolina misapplied a federal law making gun possession a crime for felons whose prior conviction carried a potential sentence of more than one year in prison. In 1993, North Carolina adopted a new, unique system called “structured sentencing,” which makes potential sentences depend on the individual defendant’s prior criminal record. Thus for the same past crime, two defendants with different criminal records might face very different potential sentences. Nevertheless, for years federal courts ruled that if the potential sentence for a past crime was more than a year for any defendant, then every defendant who committed that crime was legally barred from possessing a gun, and could be convicted of a federal crime and sentenced to federal prison for that.
Last August, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overturned all those cases, holding that only those defendants whose potential sentence for a past crime could have been more than a year qualify as felons. That means that dozens, and possibly hundreds, of people who did not face a potential sentence of at least one year for their past crimes were convicted and sentenced under an interpretation of the law that was wrong.
To their credit, federal prosecutors soon dropped pending charges against people whose records no longer qualified them as felons, and the 4th Circuit reversed more than 40 convictions that were on appeal at the time. To their shame, they have done nothing to notify inmates whose incarceration is likely illegal, nor do they plan to do so. They argue that “legal innocence,” based a change in the law, differs from “factual evidence,” based on new evidence, even though American law has always stated that court rulings are not changes in the law.
Ripley Rand, U.S. attorney in Greensboro, N.C., excuses their conduct by claiming they are “not aware of any procedural mechanism by which they can be afforded relief,” but that lawyers in his office “have not been pounding on the table” to keep anyone in jail.
Federal prosecutors in Raleigh, NC, however, are “pounding the table” to keep at least one man, Terrell McCullum, in prison even though his prior conviction should not have qualified him as a felon. In September 2007, McCullum was charged with stealing a gun, a crime with a maximum sentence of 10 months. He pleaded guilty and was put on probation. A month later he was arrested for possession of a firearm by a felon and turned over to the federal government. Again he pleaded guilty, but this time he was sent to prison for the first time. In fact, he wasn’t a felon, but even his lawyers didn’t understand the law.
“It’s been tough,” admits Rand, although amazingly he was referring not to the plight of so many wrongly convicted men in prison, but to his office’s struggles with the legal issues involved.
-Matt Bewig
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PATRICIA JONES 9 years ago
I was charged with a nonexistent statute here in St. Cloud, MN. 56303 actually two of them. They were both misdemeanors according to the Judges. Terroristic Threats 609.73.1 does not exist. It clearly shows a trail of all the errors that were approved by Judges; even the Judge now retired gave out an order for MN Statute 609.73.1 and it simply does not exist.
ron 10 years ago
all gun laws are highly illegal. our constitution clearly states that our guns are not to be taken away for any reason. what do the words "shall not be infringed" mean? what our constitution clearly spells out is that our guns are not to be taken for any reasons. the second amendment says. a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. as you can see there is no "buts" "or" "except for" any where in this law of our land. just because you were charged and convicted of a crime once you are finished paying for your crime. your constitutional rights do not go away nor are they taken away. but our politicians lie all the time to us feeding lies to the nation hoping they can slowly disarm us. our founders turned on the king for this very reason. the british they were confronted by a mixed congregation of a church and after the shooting stopped, both black men and white men were laying on the ground dead. this is "the shot heard around the world". we have been fed so many lies in the past few decades its a wonder we know any of the truth. what we americans need to do is arrest all our politicians when they show up at home to try and get us to vote for them again. no more career politicians. no more electing a congressman to be the senator. its time our states took back the rights they had stolen from them so progressives could put their unconstitutional laws and taxes into play. the only way we are going to set our nation back on the track our founders gave to us is to arrest them. arrest them all and send in all new people and their job is to prosecute anyone who is not arrested at home. our government needs to fear we the people. we need to put the fear of god back into these crooks. i am willing to die to keep my kids free. i am willing to put my life liberty and anything i have on the line for my family's freedoms. because with out freedom we are just slaves to the crooks in dc. dc needs to be washed and disinfected so we can start new. wake up americans we are in a fight for our lives.
Pvt.Joker 10 years ago
the nc governor should be leading the charge against the feds on this. he should, via the constitutional doctrine of interposition, file a writ of habeas corpus, take custody of the victim, and summarily release them. simultaneously, he should invite all federal agents out of nc.
yarply 10 years ago
a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. i keep looking for those exclusionary reasons in the constitution. so if anyone comes across them let me know.

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