A request by indicted Frederick County, Maryland, Sheriff Chuck Jenkins to be allowed to possess firearms as the federal conspiracy case against him continues has been shot down by a judge.
The decision, made Wednesday by federal Magistrate Judge Beth P. Gesner, said Jenkins’ attorney had failed to offer any new arguments for the request, which comes as the longtime sheriff is considering ending a leave of absence and returning to full day-to-day functions as sheriff.
Jenkins, 66, was indicted in April alongside the owner of a Frederick shooting range in what prosecutors alleged was a scheme to illegally acquire machine guns for the business. Jenkins, who was elected to a fifth term as sheriff last fall, and the business owner, Robert Krop, 36, have both pleaded not guilty to all charges.
As a condition of his release before trial, Jenkins was barred from possessing any firearms. He later announced he was taking a leave of absence “through the end of this judicial process,” during which he said he would serve in an administrative capacity and attend executive-level meetings and events.
A motion filed this week by Jenkins’ attorneys sought permission for Jenkins to carry two service weapons, citing his work duties.
“Sheriff Jenkins continues to work daily, fulfilling his Constitutional Duty as the elected Sheriff of Frederick County,” the July 24 filing stated. “He does this without his server (sic) pistol, at great personal risk to himself. Over the course of his tenure as Sheriff, Sheriff Jenkins has been the target of several threats of serious injury and death.”
The filing went on to say: “Amending the conditions of Sheriff Jenkins’ release will not endanger the public, but will provide greater protection to the public, as it will ensure that the citizens of Frederick County have their chief law enforcement officer positioned to protect both his safety and theirs while this matter is pending.”
Federal prosecutors opposed Jenkins’ request, saying they seek to prevent “virtually all” people charged with felonies who are released before trial from possessing firearms.
“This policy and practice stems, in part, from the proposition that individuals facing federal felony charges — irrespective of the defendant’s likelihood of being convicted — are confronting unusually challenging and stressful circumstances that in some cases impact on individual behaviors relative to others as well as themselves,” prosecutors wrote in their July 25 response. “Accordingly, it is prudent to eliminate firearms from being readily attainable and available to the defendant, for the safety of the community and the individual.”
Their filing pointed to the recent death of former Maryland official Roy McGrath, who was on pretrial release after being indicted on fraud charges, skipped out on his trial and then died during an encounter with law enforcement while he was reportedly armed with a gun.
In her decision Wednesday, the magistrate judge said Jenkins’ attorneys had “offered no new arguments or changed circumstances” to warrant reconsidering the ban on possessing firearms.
Jenkins statement: No intention of stepping down
In an email statement to WTOP provided by a sheriff’s office spokesman, Jenkins said he could soon make a decision about whether to return to his full duties as sheriff.
“I am still the sworn Sheriff, I have not resigned and have no intention of stepping down,” he said in the statement.
“The leave of absence was self-imposed and solely my decision. The citizens of Frederick County that elected me, expect me to be at work and do the job they elected me to do. I’m receiving my pay so I will continue to function as Sheriff and moving forward I expect to make a decision as to when to rescind my ‘leave of absence’ status and return to full day-to-day functions as Sheriff. Because of the many hundreds of comments of support, prayers, and encouragement I have received, I know that the citizens that elected me still want me serving in full-capacity as Sheriff, and those who did not support me want me out completely. I strongly suspect that no one has jumped the fence either way.”
Prosecutors have alleged that the sheriff helped Krop acquire machine guns by writing bogus letters on the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office letterhead to gun dealers and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, falsely claiming the firearms were to be used for demonstration and evaluation purposes for the sheriff’s office.
Jenkins’ attorneys said there is no evidence to support prosecutors’ allegations that he knowingly and willfully committed a crime. They are also seeking to have Jenkins’ trial held separately from Krop’s. The judge’s decision on that request is still pending.
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