man sentenced to 24 months for gun crimes in connection to violent madison assault
MADISON, WIS. -- John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Esteban Bernard, 27, Madison, Wis., was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley to 24 months in federal prison for being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and being an illegal drug user in possession of a firearm. Bernard pleaded guilty to these charges on June 18, 2013. Bernard, a citizen of Argentina who was in the United States illegally, is expected to be deported to Argentina at the conclusion of his sentence.
In the early morning hours of July 29, 2012, Bernard, mistakenly believing that his neighbor had stolen money from him, approached his neighbor's Vilas Avenue apartment with several other males. Bernard instructed one of his companions, “Get my gun.”
Within moments, Bernard entered the apartment and pointed a gun at his neighbor and demanded to know where his money was. Bernard racked the slide on his semi-automatic Makarov pistol and told his neighbor that he was going to die. The neighbor's girlfriend, believing that she would also be shot, fled to the back bedroom. Bernard then pistol-whipped his neighbor over the head repeatedly.
Bernard left the apartment by a back door, but then re-entered the apartment through a side door moments later and beat the neighbor over the head again. Bernard then left and his neighbor retreated to the back bedroom where his girlfriend was on the phone with police. When police and medical personnel arrived, the victim was bleeding profusely and transported to the hospital where he required staples to close his scalp lacerations.
Police encountered Bernard, with a blood-stained t-shirt, in the vicinity of the apartment building. When Bernard was arrested and placed in handcuffs, he said, “Go ahead and search me, I’m not a criminal or anything.”
Bernard no longer had the pistol because he had given it to a friend to take it away in his car. The friend was stopped within a few hundred feet of the apartment building, and a blood-stained Makarov pistol was found under the seat of the car. A search warrant was executed and a second pistol was found in Bernard's apartment, as well as a small-scale marijuana grow operation. Bernard claimed that the marijuana was for his own use. Fingerprint and DNA evidence linked Bernard to both weapons.
Bernard was charged in state court and ultimately pleaded guilty to charges relating to drug possession, trespass of a dwelling, and battery, receiving a sentence of five months in jail.
At sentencing, Judge Conley noted that Bernard had squandered opportunities to make a productive life in the United States since moving to Wisconsin at the age of 14. Judge Conley took note of the numerous convictions for domestic violence that Bernard had accumulated over the years. He urged Bernard to obtain any substance abuse treatment available to him in prison before he was returned to Argentina.
The charges against Esteban Bernard were the result of an investigation conducted by the Madison Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Burke.
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