Kevin Dawson, who authorities say traded guns with Jesse Mathews just before Mathews shot and killed Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tim Chapin, was sentenced Thursday to 34 months in federal prison.
Dawson is prohibited from ever again possessing firearms. He will be allowed to remain on bond for 30 days to get his affairs in order, and must report to the institution on or before June 10 at 2 p.m.
Two fellow gun dealers were also sentenced by Federal Judge Curtis Collier. Jack Wardlaw was ordered to serve 12 months of home confinement.
He will only be allowed to leave for work or school, and will be responsible for paying any costs associated with the arrangement. A fine of $4,000 to the U.S. clerks’ office is due immediately, as well as an additional $100 fine. Suspended leave for one year after the confinement will be served. General terms and conditions of probation and the general conditions of home confinements will apply. He too, will not be allowed to own firearms in the future.
Carl Monroe will serve six months of probation and pay the U.S. government a fine of $100.
Authorities said the men sold firearms at gun shows, flea markets and from home without having a license in order to avoid government oversight, tax consequences and the necessity of making background checks before a sale.
Dawson pled guilty and had agreed to cooperate with authorities before he was indicted. Jack Wardlaw, Dawson’s father in law, had invested $15,000 in the business of buying and selling guns. Carl Monroe shared clients with Dawson and arranged for the sale of a Thompson submachine gun to an undercover Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent. Judge Collier specified the sentencing guidelines of 33-41 months for Dawson, 18-24 months for Wardlaw and 15-21 months for Monroe.
Defense attorney Jerry Summers, representing Wardlaw, asked for leniency in the way of probation or house arrest versus incarceration for his client. Attorney Summers said he functioned only in a supporting capacity, and because of his age (66) and his physical condition that would be difficult for the Bureau of Prisons to manage. While members of his legal team carried a chair out for Wardlaw to sit, prosecutor Terra Bay responded that the last health issues reported were in 2009 and that the BOP was capable of supplying his care and providing a gluten-free diet.
She also said his role had not been completely passive. He had attended gun shows and sold two guns to undercover agents on two different days. When arrested, a check was found in his pocket for the sale of a firearm. Attorney Summers said his client had been unaware that a license was necessary for selling guns and would have obtained one had he known. Ms. Bay said that statement was questionable because he had looked into getting a license and did not pursue it because he would have needed to have a storefront. Attorney Summers also cited the fact that Wardlaw had agreed to forfeit the 61 guns he owned as a hobby, valued at $22,000. “Mr. Wardlaw agreed to something that’s inevitable,” said Ms. Bay in reference to the forfeiture.
Carl Monroe, a convicted felon, was found guilty of one count at his trial. His lawyer, Myrlene R. Marsa, requested “downward departure” for her client in order to lessen his sentence, based on his age, the fact that he has had no criminal activity in his 68 years, and multiple health issues such as coronary artery disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. She said he is no flight risk because he depends on his daughter for all transportation. She also said the jury had determined that he should have known he was doing wrong when arranging a gun sale to a convicted felon, but there was no actual proof that he knew. She requested home confinement for her client, saying his medical care would be significant and that would be a less costly punishment.
Dawson had pled guilty to engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license. In the investigation of the shooting of Sgt. Chapin in April 2011, it was discovered that one gun purchased by Mathews came from Dawson. In an interview with police at that time, the ATF informed him a license was needed to sell firearms, but the advice was ignored for over a year and he continued the practice of not doing background checks. Guns were sold to felons several times, it was stated. In 2011, just before filing for bankruptcy, he began making deposits of thousands of dollars and attempted to find a way that they not be reported to the IRS, the judge was told.
In his statements to Judge Collier, Lee Ortwein, attorney for Dawson, referenced over 100 letters written on behalf of his client, and the room full of people that came to the sentencing to support him. He said Dawson had no prior criminal history, good family relationships and support groups and was remorseful for what he had done. He has already been punished, said attorney Ortwein, by losing everything he owned as well as his reputation. He asked for supervision that the court deemed appropriate.
Judge Collier asked for clarification of two issues of particular concern. Attorney Ortwein was first asked to address the fact that Dawson was willing to sell a Thompson submachine gun. Elaborating on the events surrounding this sale, attorney Ortwein said he did not actually sell the gun. At the first meeting with the undercover ATF agent who told him he had the gun to sell, Dawson said he did not deal in those. At the second meeting, he indicated he knew someone that might be interested. At the third meeting, the agent showed up with the gun and Dawson took possession of it in order to sell it to a third party in Nashville.
The second concern addressed was the fact that he had been warned he was in violation because of not having a license. To this, attorney Ortwein said he did not want to comment. He told the judge there was not much he could add or take away from what was done. “It is what it is,” he said.
Dawson explained his interest in guns began as a child watching cowboy television shows and that he had been given his first shotgun at age 13 by his father. From there he became aware of the most interesting guns. He asked for mercy from the court and God and asked Judge Collier for a sentence of probation so he could be a productive citizen.
Judge Collier told the defendants that only a minority of people do harm with guns, and that if people can deal in firearms without any regulations that small percent can easily get guns and inflict harm. So, he said, the laws that are in place have to be followed. The factors that a judge must look at are retribution or consequences of violating the law that could be used as a deterrent and the need to put away a defendant so offences will not be repeated. Because he chose to engage in illegal conduct for a year after being warned, and especially because he considered selling a machine gun without knowing the use of it, troubled the judge, it was stated. Therefore incarceration is appropriate for Dawson, said Judge Collier.
Dawson and Wardlaw have both agreed to forfeiture of the guns they own. Monroe’s attorney asked for more time to formalize a resolution about the forfeiture order of Monroe’s firearms. The prosecutor agreed that resolution could be reached without a hearing.
The cases were investigated by the ATF and the IRS.