The federal government is taking two handguns away from a man who has pleaded guilty to possessing them illegally as a convicted felon.
James Vickers pleaded guilty Nov. 28 to being a felon in possession of firearms, after he reportedly shot up a Rock Springs restaurant weeks prior. The crime is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $250,000 in fines, but Vickers has not yet been sentenced.
The next day, a federal prosecutor asked U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl if the government could take the guns the defendant possessed illegally. One is a Springfield Armory 9 mm pistol and the other is a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver.
Skavdahl said yes, issuing a Nov. 30 order telling the federal government to seize both weapons and watch for anyone making a valid claim on them.
Within 30 days of the government’s final public notice that it has the weapons, any person besides Vickers can assert “a legal interest” in them, then have a court hearing without a jury to determine whether he or she has a valid claim, says Skavdahl’s order.
The search data at Forfeiture.gov indicates the government has not yet made its final announcement that it has the firearms.
If no one demonstrates a valid claim to these guns, the U.S. government “shall have a clear title” to them and can determine their fate, the order says.
Duck And Cover
Vickers originally faced misdemeanors in Sweetwater County
, for allegedly shooting up a Rock Springs restaurant, the Santa Fe Southwest Grill, at lunchtime last September.
But federal authorities took over the case – likely because being a felon in possession of a firearm is a felony and carries a heftier potential punishment than the smattering of misdemeanors Vickers originally faced under state law.
Restaurant co-owner Cory Gardner told Cowboy State Daily at the time that staffers worked together to get everyone out of the restaurant and to safety, as a “troubled” Vickers fired off shots.
Police converged on the scene within two minutes of the first “pop,” Gardner said.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.