Joel H. Stone Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Billings on April 8, 2009, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, JOEL H. STONE, age 40, pled guilty to being a felon-in-possession of a firearm. Sentencing is set for July 8, 2009. He is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On August 4, 2007, Billings Police officers were sent to a residence on a complaint that there was an intoxicated man in the yard brandishing a "large handgun." The officers found STONE outside and located a Ruger Super Blackhawk revolver, .44 Magnum caliber, on the roof of a car parked in his driveway. They seized the firearm for safekeeping given his obvious intoxication.
At this time, however, officers were unaware that STONE was a convicted felon. STONE later contacted an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and inquired if he was going to be charged with a federal offense. At the time, the agent was unaware of any felony convictions.
Later, STONE went to the Billings Police Department evidence locker and tried to get his handgun back from them. The Evidence Technician refused to return the firearm to him because she checked his criminal history and discovered an outstanding arrest warrant for STONE from California, a felony conviction from California, and a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence in Montana. She contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent and advised him of this, as well as the fact that STONE was now claiming the firearm belonged to another person and he wanted the firearm released to that person.
Further investigation revealed that the person named by STONE had "straw-purchased" this firearm for STONE in April of 2006, after STONE had previously tried to purchase a firearm in 2005 but was denied after a background check.
STONE has a felony conviction from California from 1989 for assault with a deadly weapon. Additionally, STONE is a fugitive from justice, having absconded from felony probation in California.
STONE faces possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed Zink prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Billings Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.