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Press Release

Recidivist Offender Sentenced to Nearly 15 Years in Federal Prison for Unlawful Possession of a Machinegun While on Supervised Release

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – A former resident of the East Hills area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to 10 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his conviction on charges of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon and possession of a machinegun, United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan announced today.

United States District Judge Christy Criswell Wiegand imposed the sentence on Oronde Shelton, 51, on February 13, 2024.

According to information presented to the Court, on March 17, 2021, Shelton possessed a semi-automatic Glock pistol equipped with an extended magazine and an aftermarket auto-sear, commonly referred to as a “Glock switch,” which rendered the gun capable of firing in a fully automatic capacity. Under federal law, the auto-sear or switch device was itself a machinegun. At the time of this offense, Shelton was a convicted felon and therefore prohibited from possessing any firearm or ammunition.

By his own admission at the time of his guilty plea, Shelton had used the machinegun on three occasions prior to his 2021 arrest, including during an exchange of gunfire on Frankstown Road in which an innocent bystander was struck by a bullet in his right ankle. In the incident that served as the basis for the most recent federal charges against him, Shelton admitted that he was driving in the North Side of Pittsburgh with the modified Glock pistol on the passenger seat. After occupants of another vehicle pulled up to Shelton’s vehicle and opened fire, Shelton returned fire from his weapon’s 30-round capacity magazine, shooting through his own windshield and striking a building nearby and at least one parked vehicle. Shortly after, Shelton abandoned his vehicle and walked away with his fully automatic firearm, which was found in his residence in April 2021 at the time of his arrest.

Judge Wiegand rejected Shelton’s attempt to minimize his conduct by claiming that he needed to carry the firearm for protection, finding that such a defense is unavailable for a felon’s “sustained possession of a firearm for personal protection over the course of” a period of months and “based on a generalized concern that unnamed individuals might” present a threat. Moreover, the Court clarified, because the law “prohibits anyone, even law-abiding individuals, from possessing a machinegun . . . it would be nonsensical for there to be an exception for ‘justified’ possession of a machinegun.”

At the time of these latest violations, Shelton was serving a term of supervised release following a prior 120-month federal prison sentence for his participation in a conspiracy to distribute large quantities of heroin in 2008. As a result of his current firearms conviction, Judge Wiegand determined that Shelton had violated the terms of his federal supervision, which the Court subsequently revoked, sentencing Shelton to an additional 57 months’ incarceration to be served consecutively to the 120 months he received for the machinegun possession.

“Oronde Shelton has repeatedly endangered the community, and in particular innocent bystanders, with his use of illegal firearms, in this case, a machinegun,” said U.S. Attorney Olshan. “This combined sentence of nearly 15 years is a recognition of how dangerous and destructive machineguns are, particularly when possessed and used by chronic violent offenders. Through coordinated efforts by our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, and by using federal resources to investigate and prosecute those who are driving violence, we continue to prioritize the safety of our neighborhoods.”
Assistant United States Attorneys Barbara K. Doolittle and Michael R. Ball prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

United States Attorney Olshan commended the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Shelton.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

Updated February 16, 2024

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses