Federal Jury Convicts Lea County Man On Firearms Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – A federal jury sitting in Las Cruces, N.M., returned a guilty verdict this afternoon against Cody Allen Little, 34, of Lovington, N.M., on a two-count superseding indictment alleging violations of the federal firearms laws after a two-day trial. The verdict was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, 5th Judicial District Attorney Janetta B. Hicks, and Thomas G. Atteberry, Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Little was arrested on a criminal complaint in June 2012, and subsequently was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition and possession of stolen firearms in a superseding indictment. The superseding indictment alleged that Little unlawfully possessed firearms and ammunition, including a stolen assault rifle and a stolen shotgun, on Nov. 1, 2011, in Lea County, N.M. At the time, Little was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he previously had been convicted of the following felony offenses in the 5th Judicial District Court for the State of New Mexico in Lea County: (1) burglary, battery on a peace officer and possession of drug paraphernalia, (2) battery on a peace officer and resisting an officer, and (3) burglary and larceny.
According to the evidence at trial, on the night of Oct. 24, 2011, the “Southwest Arms,” a gun shop in Lovington that was owned and operated by a federal firearms licensee (FFL), was burglarized and seven weapons, including several assault rifles, were stolen. Within days, law enforcement authorities and the FFL received tips that led officers to focus on Little, who was renting in a converted well-house located on a residential property less than half a mile away from the gun shop, as a potential suspect in the burglary.
On Nov. 1, 2011, officers went to the residential property on which the well-house was located to follow up on the tips. While speaking with an individual at the residence, the officers saw Little walk out of the well-house and away from the area where the officers were standing, and disappear from sight. When an officer walked to the area where Little was last seen, he observed a storage shed with its doors secured in the open position. Glancing into the shed, the officer observed parts of an AR 15 style assault rifle and AR 15 style assault rifles in plain view.
After obtaining a search warrant for the property, officers recovered two firearms and ammunition from the well-house where Little was living. The first firearm, a .308 caliber assault rifle with a loaded 19-round magazine, was found inside a sleeping bag in the well-house. The second, a 12 gauge shotgun, was found under the bed in the well-house. Two shot gun shells were found on a shelf above the bed. Both firearms were among the weapons stolen from the gun shop on Oct. 24, 2011. After confirming that Little was residing in the well-house, the officers arrested Little on state charges on Nov. 2, 2011.
The jury deliberated approximately 50 minutes before returning a guilty verdict on both counts of the superseding indictment.
The state charges against Little were dismissed after he was arrested on federal charges. Little has been in federal custody since his arrest and remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. Little faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison unless the court determines that he is an armed career criminal. In that event, Little faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said that the case was prosecuted as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this anti-violence initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.
District Attorney Janetta B. Hicks noted, “Our partnership with the U. S. Attorney’s Office is integral to reducing the violence in southeastern New Mexico. It is imperative to remove armed felons from our community.”
“Anytime we can prevent a prohibited felon from possessing this much firepower, our communities are safer,” stated ATF Special Agent in Charge, Thomas G. Atteberry. “I want to commend the leadership of U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales and his prosecution team, in addition to the dedicated ATF agents and local law enforcement that perfected this criminal case.”
The case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives with assistance from the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, the Lovington Police Department and the Lea County Sheriff’s Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marisa A. Lizarraga, Shaheen P. Torgoley and Mick I.R. Gutierrez of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.