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V.21 No.31 | 8/2/2012

Feature

Shoot.

Guns, drug cartels, federal agents and the apocalypse collide in a Deming firearms store

It was an overcast winter day when Mexican President Felipe Calderón stood at the main international crossing in Ciudad Juárez and unveiled a massive sign aimed at the U.S. side of the border. It made for a dramatic photo opportunity. A white sheet billowed behind billboard-sized letters fashioned from the twisted remains of guns that Calderón said were confiscated by law enforcement. They spelled out the words “No More Weapons.”

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news

Jury Returns Verdict in Deming Gun Store Trial

Margaret Wright

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.

Around 4 p.m. this afternoon, the jury handed down their verdict.

Rick Reese, patriarch of the family, and his wife Terri were both convicted on one felony count each of false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearms. Ryin, 25, was convicted of two counts. Remington, 20, was fully acquitted. He was released from custody along with Terri, who is out on bond, said her attorney Brad Hall.

Each false statement conviction could carry a sentence of up to 5 years in federal prison.

Hall said via phone interview that the defense team’s reactions to the verdict were mixed.

“We're happy that the vast majority of the charges were rejected by the jury,” he stated, “but I’m disappointed that Terri was found guilty of anything.”

The family was arrested last August and charged with a total of 28 counts of conspiracy, false statements, gun smuggling and money laundering. Prosecutors argued throughout the case that the family knowingly sold guns to so-called “straw buyers” who were getting weapons on behalf of violent Mexican drug cartel members.

The Reeses’ team of defense attorneys countered that the family had “no criminal intent” whatsoever. Their attorneys also fought to portray the key witness for the prosecution as a self-serving criminal.

The day they were arrested, federal agents seized the Reeses’ Deming property: 85 acres of real estate; cash, bank accounts and coins; and the entire inventory of their New Deal gun store. All of the property was subject to forfeiture to the U.S. government.

The initial indictment in the case says that the false statements convictions will mean the forfeiture of “any firearms and ammunition involved in the commission of the offenses.”

Hall said that “further legal analysis” will be required to determine the final extent of that forfeiture.

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