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When the family 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 they supposedly knew the money paying for the guns had come from illegal activities) and making false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearms.
At the same time, a task force led by Homeland Security Investigations – including hundreds of federal, state, county and local officers, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and numerous police cruisers – stormed the Reese property where the store and the Reese home is located. Officers held an elderly couple, who were camping on the property, at gunpoint as they searched the couple’s RV. Other officers broke into the store and the basement storage space where they confiscated the store’s inventory, hundreds of guns, almost 2 million rounds of ammunition and more than a dozen empty gun safes. Officers also broke into the Reese home and 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, which locked up most of the family’s assets leaving them with little means to pay for legal assistance to fight the charges and the forfeiture efforts.
After the Reeses were arrested, U.S. Attorney Ken Gonzales declared, “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.”
It is not yet known whether the family members will be credited with time served, and the question of whether the property seized from them will ever be returned to them is still up in the air. The fact that they currently stand as convicted felons means that they cannot possess firearms or ammunition, much less run a gun shop. The family business is gone for the foreseeable future, and forever if the convictions are not overturned. The assets of the store are likely to be forfeited, so the family can’t even cover some of the legal expenses by selling out.
This week’s feature delves into the trial of the Reese family of Deming, N.M. Their arrest last year on charges of aiding and abetting gun smugglers added more fuel to the partisan firestorm over border security, gun control, and governmental measures (à la Operation Fast and Furious) to stem the flow of weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
Jason Bowles, Ryin Reese’s attorney, was the last of the defense attorneys to address the Jury argue for their acquittal. Mr. Bowles explained the Jurors would be taking the indictment back to chambers to answer 28 questions on the verdict. He explained over the next 10-15 minutes why each should be answered not guilty, starting out with with law, and the decision making based on the facts. Mr. Bowles pointed to Count 1 and reminded them of the Jury’s instructions on reasonable doubt. The government failed (to prove conspiracy) and the Judge instructed if you think there is doubt that you must find them not guilty. You have to be firmly convinced they are guilty as charged. Regarding Counts 2 – 28 Mr. Bowles mentioned aiding and abetting and asked if it was reasonable. He explained the Reeses did not know about any of this. Mr. Bowles explained for the government to convict them of the smuggling counts they have to go thru the aiding and abetting clause. First someone else committed the crime. Second, the defendant has to intend to associate and participate. They must share common knowledge. General suspicion is not enough. Also being present at a crime is not sufficient. Mr. Bowles asked the Jury if they intended to associate? Mere presence is not enough. If you can’t find that standards present, you must find them not guilty. Mr. Bowles asked the Jury how they would go about making these decisions, and told them they would have to go thru the process. He told them to evaluate the believability of the witnesses and that they should consider if they impressed them as being honest. Mr. Bowles pointed out that Roman hasn’t been honest since age 17, and he told them to consider that Roman had a personal interest in the outcome of the case. Mr. Bowles pointed out one of the things not immediately apparent. There was no language in the motion to get a reduced sentence in the Plea Agreement. (Possibly in the Penny Torres Plea Agreement.) Mr Bowles pointed another a section Prosecutor Jordan highlighted where a defendant falsely implicated a person on false information, at a minimum, the defendant is in violation of the Plea Agreement. However, Mr. Bowles continued, that part isn’t in the Roman Plea Agreement. There is no language about being truthful. Under cross examination it was brought out that Roman wants the benefits of the Plea Agreement and it colors your perception. Mr. Bowles reminded the Jury this case started with Roman, and Terri helped the government. If this family was involved, why would Terri tip off the government, he asked. Jose Roman did get benefits. Every one of the defendants had a factual basis to tell the truth to the government. When they were shown the plea agreement, not a single one talked about the Reeses. Not in there when they were under oath. Why not? Mr. Bowles told the Jury they couldn’t give any weight to Roman’s testimony. He infected this whole case. The government tried to keep him out because he’s so dirty. Mr. Bowles stated the best thing the government has is the tapes, which they tried to script. Go into any business and see if you don’t hear outlandish statements. But that doesn’t prove criminal intent. Mr. Bowles explained that the only two people who had knowledge were the two people in the conversation. He pointed out you don’t see the undercover agent. He pointed out you couldn’t see if the agent was shopping. The government agents actions are not filmed. Mr. Bowles emphasized Roman didn’t say he couldn’t buy weapons, and this case is different. Mr. Bowles explained they did not intentionally participate. Regarding the exports counts in 11-28, and aiding and abetting, Mr. Bowles explained the defendants sold these weapons but they didn’t need to get the export license or approval from the state. They had knowledge it was prohibited by law. Mr. Bowles explained Ryin’s problem statement was that he said he didn’t need to know that. Of course they knew they are looked at by the government; inspections happen all the time. This idea that he was an exporter, there is no proof. Ryin had no idea they were going there. If they had suspicions, there is no requirement to report. They can’t be convicted on a guess or speculation. There is no proof they were violation the Arms Export Laws because there is no evidence any of them knew they needed to report. They didn’t know the guns were being smuggled, and they didn’t act willfully. Regarding the Conspiracy Count, Mr. Bowles stated requires knowingly breaking the law, and the only evidence the government presented was the family in a huddle talking in hushed tones. Mr. Bowles told the Jury they can’t convict on this. Mr. Bowles told the Jury another thing learned in this case is that people are products of what they grow up with. He described the agents’ day in and day out job as dealing with criminals, and soon all you start to see is everyone is a criminal, and that it colors you after a while. Mr. Bowles used Agent Frye (sp?) as an example, who described the storage room as a “tunnel” and a “bunker”, which are techniques to shade things. Mr. Bowles pointed out how Prosecutor Armijo interpreted the connotation of “you all” and “y’all”, and that hairsplitting is done to make words sound criminal. Mr. Bowles reminded the Jury to remember Roman. He explained the government starts with their strongest witness first. Roman admitted to buying a gun, and that he was their first witness. He asked the Jury to remember that Roman continually laughed, and suggested it was all planned, it was all a big joke. Eventually you’re going to get people to say something that sounds like a crime. Mr. Bowles reminded the Jury that Ryin wouldn’t sell a weapon unless it was for the buyer (the undercover agent). Mr. Bowles told the Jury there were no double sets of books. Law enforcement was tipped off by them, and there is ample evidence they were trying to obey the law. He reminded the Jury that if the Reeses could pass an inspection of that kind (the 2010 inspection) that there is nothing there. Mr. Bowles concluded by stating the defense has done their best to show why the government has no case and urged them to find all of the Reeses not guilty on all counts.
Rick obtained his FFL originally in 1993. He liked firearms and felt he could save money purchasing weapons. Back then, a $30 fee to ATF accompanied the application form. Rick explained a few years ago the ATF made him surrender that FFL to change the name on the FFL to his personal name (instead of a LLC), and the fee escalated to $300. New Deal was opened approximately 18 years ago. He had applied for a job at the local high school, however, wasn’t hired. He supported the family by selling guns at gun shows on weekends. The initial capital to start up the company was his wife’s credit card.
Rick explained little by little they built the current New Deal store. First they needed a secure, cool, location for ammunition (as required by ATF). The jury was shown construction photos, showing how the first thing they did was bury an underground used diesel tank to store weapons and ammo in securely. An access hatch and interior stairway was constructed. Rick stated as part of the inspection process the ATF was aware of this storage area and the security measures. Rick related that during the inspections, ATF matches the A&D logs to the physical inventory, which from 1983 thru 1995 was stored securely in this underground storage area.
[In other words, folks, the ATF has known this is not a "bunker" or "tunnel" as described in earlier government testimony, and wasn't a secret to the ATF as they have known about this since the inception of New Deal.]
Rick explained he had security concerns when he built the underground storage area. His boys were very young, they were 30 miles from Old Mexico, in a rural setting, and far from the sheriff’s office in town. Alarm systems hooked up to the sheriff’s office were installed, flood lights, as well as fences surrounding the area. They did everything they could to comply with ATF regulations.
At first the above ground business was a small area. Over the years, he was able to build a steel building over the underground storage area, and later expand it even further. New Deal became the 3rd largest gun store in New Mexico in terms of volume of sales and floor space. One third of his business came from law enforcement.
Terri helped him more and more in the store as the business grew, but even that wasn’t enough help. In time they had other people help in an informal manner. Retired and off-duty law enforcement would help out, and he described how gun stores are like a candy store to some. The officers were happy to be able to hang out in the store.
He also built a safe shooting range, which was leased out to ICE. He explained that US Customs had a key to the property and could come and go as they wished, even after business hours. They started leasing the range some 5-7 years ago. He stated his range complied with ATF regulations, and could accommodate pistols and rifles, however, to be safe when shooting a 50 caliber gun they would travel 1.5 miles to the Florida mountain and shoot the 50 caliber gun pointed at the mountain.
Rick described how he tried to cater to law enforcement and gave them discounts on weapons and ammunition to draw them into the store and get repeat business.
Rick described how he initially advertised on the radio to get other clientele, however, over time realized he was getting diminishing returns. He switched over to getting shirt embroidered with his company name and phone number, and over the shirts this amounted to 1000s of shirts, many given away as a promotional item. Manufacturers also gave him shirts to give away when a customer purchased their item. Rick obtained other promotional items also. He described one of them as a challenge coin, which had his logo on it and a choice of phrases. In his case Rick chose the phrase “Armor of God” to be printed on his promotional coin.
Originally posted by Planet teleX
As an aside, I can't stop picturing an 'escape goat'. Away, silver!
Star and flag
Originally posted by Sulie
There is so much on the case out there from so many different sources, that one could spend literally hours reading about it before being able to make a judgement call.............
Are you looking for a fast, sympathetic response here, because just your link could not allow a person to make a well informed judgement call without looking into whatever else is out there...............just 'sayin!
Originally posted by becomingaware
The undercover agent who bought a firearm and initiated the arrest, was told he would only be sold the firearm, only if it was for him personally.
Sounds like the business was compliant and didn't break any laws.