A Prineville man pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to possessing a firearm and ammunition after being convicted in an Oregon court of domestic violence -- a law that federal prosecutors say they are looking to enforce more often.
According to court documents and statements, Willard Bryan Wilhelm, 33, pleaded guilty without a plea agreement to possessing a firearm and ammunition after being convicted in an Oregon court of fourth-degree assault "constituting domestic violence," a misdemeanor.
After his state conviction, Wilhelm was warned he could no longer legally possess a firearm and ammunition.
And yet, prosecutors said, last July 19, police were called to Wilhelm’s Prineville home and found him in possession of a loaded rifle. Two women and four children were at the home when Wilhelm was taken into custody. they said.
U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall said, “Not every abuser who owns or possesses a firearm will use them to threaten, kill, or injure others, but if an abuser has access to a firearm, it is far more likely that a homicide, suicide or serious injury will occur."
"My office will prosecute those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors who subsequently possess a firearm,” she added.
Sentencing is set for May 10 at 10 a.m. before Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken. The maximum penalty for possessing a firearm or ammunition after being convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the
Prineville Police Department, and was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution by Crook County Deputy District Attorney Katherine Krauel-Hernberg.
The case is being prosecuted in federal court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank R. Papagni, Jr.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cardani said federal gun laws make it a felony to be convicted of state domestic violence charges and then possess a gun or ammunition that's traveled in interstate commerce.
"We screen (domestic violence cases) pretty heavily, occasionally meet with state counterparts" about them, Cardani said, adding that while the law has "been on the books for a while, it (prosecution) is something we're looking to do more of."