Jury rejects Conspiracy, Smuggling, and Money Laundering charges
After almost a year in jail and a three week trial, a jury has declared the members of the Reese family to be not guilty on 24 of the 28 counts against them. The jury did convict Rick Reese and his wife Terri on one count each of making false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearms. Eldest son Ryin was convicted on two counts of the same charge, and younger son Remington was acquitted of all charges. The convictions are expected to result in sentences of about one year for each count, but harsher penalties are possible. Sentencing is scheduled for early October. Rick and Ryin will stay in jail until then, but Terri will remain out on bail until sentence is passed. Remington was released from custody at the conclusion of the trial.
As reported previously in this column, Rick Reese and his family ran a gun shop outside of Deming, New Mexico for over 17 years. Over that time they built up the business into a profitable enterprise and Rick had planned to retire and close the store. His son, Ryin, 24, was in the process of obtaining an FFL to open a store of his own in nearby Las Cruces. In August of last year, local ATF agents asked the family to come down to their offices to discuss Ryin’s FFL application. When the Reeses showed up at the ATF office, they were arrested on charges of conspiring to illegally sell firearms and assist in smuggling them to Mexico, money laundering (because the money paying for the guns was from illegal activities), and making false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearms – lying on the 4473. Almost all of those charges were thrown out or returned as Not Guilty.
As the Reeses were arrested in Las Cruces, a task force led by Homeland Security Investigations was raiding their property outside Deming. Hundreds of federal, state, county, and local officers in helicopters, armored personnel carriers, and numerous police cruisers, stormed the Reese’s store and nearby home. They broke into the store and confiscated the inventory: hundreds of guns, almost 2 million rounds of ammunition, and over a dozen empty gun safes. In the Reese home, officers seized firearms, jewelry, cash, and a coin collection Rick Reese had been building since he was a young boy. Vehicles, bank accounts, and real estate were also seized. Federal prosecutors initiated forfeiture proceedings last December in an effort to make the seizures permanent before the family even went to trial, leaving them with little means to pay for legal support to fight the charges and the forfeiture efforts.
All of this happened to the backdrop of breaking news about Operation Fast and Furious which allowed some 2000 guns into the hands of Mexican criminals – including two guns found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. It has also been discovered that this was not the only gunwalking operation that ATF has run in the past several years. No one has even been fired over that fiasco. The investigation drags on. The administration continues to obstruct and obfuscate, but after the Reeses were arrested, US Attorney Ken Gonzales declared that “Those who sell firearms knowing that they will be illegally smuggled into Mexico to arm Mexican Cartels share responsibility for the violence that has been devastating Mexico.” Gonzales continued, “This case serves to put firearms dealers on notice that they will be held accountable for any failure to comply with federal firearms laws.” Observers marveled that US Attorney Gonzales could make that statement with a straight face. Absent an accounting for Fast and Furious, aggressively going after gun dealers whose primary crimes appear to have been a lack of a psychic ability to read a buyer’s mind, is an outrage.
We hope the family members will be credited with time served. Whether any of the property seized from them will ever be returned is still up in the air, but prospects don’t look good. The fact that Rick, Terri, and Ryin currently stand as convicted felons means that they cannot possess firearms or ammunition, much less run a gun shop. The family business is probably gone forever unless the convictions can be overturned. The guns and ammo are likely to be forfeited, so the family can’t even cover some of their legal expenses by selling out.
There is a provision in federal law specifically designed to protect gun dealers from having their inventory confiscated. That protection was included in the 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act. The Reeses’ lawyers filed a pre-trial motion to invoke those protections, but the judge rejected the motion. FOPA might come back into play now that the trial is over, but the Reeses’ convictions might nullify some or all of the protections.
As the lawyers sort out the options, the Reeses wonder when they will again spend a Christmas together.
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