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United States v. Charles Horton

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United States v. Charles Horton, Case No. 1:11-cr-427

Gun violence is a serious epidemic in the United States.

Every Day on Average (All Ages)

Every day 342 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.

Every day 96 people die from gun violence:

  • 34 are murdered
  • 59 die from suicide
  • 1 killed unintentionally
  • 1 killed by legal intervention
  • 1 died but intent was unknown

Every day 246 people are shot and survive:

  • 183 injured in an attack
  • 11 survive a suicide attempt
  • 49 shot unintentionally
  • 4 are shot in a legal intervention

Every Day on Average (ages 0-19)

Every day 47 children and teens are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.

Every day 8 children and teens die from gun violence:

  • 4 are murdered
  • 3 die from suicide
  • 1 killed unintentionally

Every day 39 children and teens are shot and survive:

  • 31 injured in an attack
  • 1 survives a suicide attempt
  • 7 shot unintentionally

Taken from the Brady Center. The Brady Center averaged the most recent five years of complete data from death certificates (2011-2015) and estimates of emergency room admissions (2010-2014) available via CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/. Data retrieved 1.3.17 and 4.29.16 respectively. Numbers may not sum to 100% because of rounding of CDC averages.

The United States knows of these numbers and devised an organization that focuses on the  protection of our American streets from this type of horrible violence. This organization is known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The Justice Department cites the following:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) was established as a separate component within the Department of Justice pursuant to Title XI of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Public Law 107-296, on January 17, 2003.

The mission of ATF is to protect communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.

The major functions of ATF are to:

  • Reduce the risk to public safety caused by illegal firearms trafficking.
  • Reduce the risk to public safety caused by criminal possession and use of firearms.
  • Reduce the risk to public safety caused by criminal organizations and gangs.
  • Improve public safety by increasing compliance with Federal laws and regulations by firearms industry members.
  • Reduce the risk to public safety caused by bombs and explosives.
  • Reduce the risk to public safety caused by criminal use of fire.
  • Improve public safety by increasing compliance with Federal laws and regulations by explosives industry members.
  • Reduce the loss of tax revenues caused by contraband alcohol and tobacco trafficking.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Like any organization it is only as good as the people who work on its behalf. In the following case the agents of the ATF allegedly not only failed to keep our streets free of illegal firearms but actively encouraged American citizens to sell firearms to people who were clearly not purchasing them legally.

The reason for this wasn’t to bust a large gang nor was it to learn more about a suspected terrorist organization. No, it was simply the desire of an ATF agent to earn a larger “bust.”

This case came to us from Charles Horton. Mr. Horton was convicted for false statement for using people to purchase firearms illegally. He was reported by the firearms dealer and ATF agent Nicholas Degennaro instructed the dealer to encourage more sales. This allowed Fourteen (14) firearms to go to our city streets illegally with an Agent knowing that these firearms would be unaccounted for.

Mr. Horton’s case is not unique. It actually follows a pattern of misconduct commonly used by the Federal Justice System. AFT Agent Nicholas Degennaro allegedly instructed the arms dealer to encourage Mr. Horton’s co-defendant knowing full well that not only was this an illegal act, but also releasing more uncontrolled firearms to the general public. Such an act is not only entrapment, but even more inhuman is that AFT Agent Nicholas Degennaro willfully placed innocent people in danger. AFT Agent Nicholas Degennaro could not have known where these firearms were going, nor how they were to be used. The sad truth is, bodily harm and loss of life did occur due to Agent Nicholas Degennaro’s alleged choice to allow those firearms to go unaccounted for.

Mr. Horton was arrested and offered a plea but his lawyer didn’t tell him in time and he was forced to go to trial. His co-defendants were given immunity for testifying.

The most terrifying of all the misconduct in this case does not lie with the injustices inflicted upon Mr. Horton however, instead it falls back to the original issue.

ATF Agent Nicholas Degennaro allegedly allowed firearms to go unaccounted for. These firearms could have been used to harm innocent people.

A full list of misconduct alleged in this case is as follows. If you wish to help by filing a request for an investigation, please contact us with the form below.

  1. ATF Agent Nicholas Degennaro allegedly recommended firearms to be sold to “Red Flagged” purchasers, allowing numerous firearms to go free on the streets with no way to track them.
  2. ATF Agent Nicholas Degennaro allegedly allowed multiple criminal acts to occur in the form of firearms being sold to “Straw Buyers” on dates May 22nd, 2010, June 19th, 2010 and August 21st, 2010.
  3. Defense Attorney Dennis O’Brien allegedly refused to argue entrapment during Mr. Horton’s trial despite evidence that Agent Degennaro recommended all sales after the first sale to take place.
  4. Defense Attorney Dennis O’Brien allegedly failed to inform Mr. Horton that his co-defendants were given full immunity in order to secure their testimony against him at trial, an act Mr. Horton stated would have encouraged him to take a plea.
  5. Defense Attorney Dennis O’Brien allegedly failed to timely instruct Mr. Horton that he had a deadline in which to take a plea, which ultimately removed the option for Mr. Horton to take a plea at all.
  6. Magistrate Judge Christopher Hagy allegedly made a recommendation for Mr. Horton not to take a plea agreement.
  7. Defense Attorney Dennis O’Brien allegedly failed to investigate a prior conviction the United States Probation Office put in his Pre-Sentencing Investigation. Said prior conviction was allegedly not Mr. Horton’s, but was instead that of another individual. This resulted in a substantial increase of sentence.

The allegations, if true, pose a serious threat to both the judicial process and society as a whole. Had Mr. Horton’s co-defendants been spoken to by the Government Agent, the likelihood of this activity having occurred would have been almost certainly eliminated. Instead, not only was Mr. Horton’s co-defendants encouraged to continue making purchases, but said purchases resulted in the loss of life that the ATF is charged with protecting against.

The rest of the participants in this crime, the ones who actually took the initiative to purchase the firearms and continue purchasing the firearms, were giving immunity. The ones who physically committed a crime were given the ability to walk free, just so Mr. Horton could be convicted.

The following report was received during our initial request for reports of misconduct. The case itself is a bit complex and the initial report a bit confusing. It is included at the end of this article.

Initial Report provided by Charles Horton

This is a report of government agent misconduct against ATF agent Nicholas Degennaro and other ATF agents in the Atlanta Division as it is related to the case of United States v. Charles Horton, No. 1:11-cr-427:

In my case, ATF Agent Degennaro and other AFT agents in the Atlanta Division had set up an illegal entrapment scheme by directly instructing a local firearm stores owner to sell to people he knows to be illegally purchasing such firearms and then report them so that they may be arrested and convicted.

On May 22, 2010, several active personnel working at REDACTED made the owner REDACTED aware that there had been “Red Flags” on a few purchases, leading them to believe the buyers were “straw” buyers, people buying firearms on behalf of someone who is not lawfully permitted to own or possess such firearm (Usually because of a prior felony which now precludes such right).

REDACTED informed the ATF of such suspected illegal purchases, and Agent Degennaro instructed them to continue to make sales they know are illegal and then inform them immediately so the ATF could arrest the purchasers on the date scheduled for the buyer’s firearm pick-up. Such purchases occurred from May 22, 2010 through at least August 21, 2010, including on at least May 22, 2010, June 19, 2010, and August 21, 2010. There were at least 14 such purchases made through this entrapment scheme.

My attorney refused to raise the entrapment issue as laid out above, and I was convicted despite such illegal scheme to illicit such purchases from others and myself.

My lawyer also refused to raise to the court’s attention (and did not tell me) about the full offer of immunity accepted by the other codefendants before trial, or I would have accepted the 60-month (5 year) plea deal instead of going to trial as I did. I was sentenced to 17 years as a result.

Disturbingly, Magistrate Judge C. Christopher Haggy made a recommendation in open court to me not to accept the 60-month plea and instead go to trial, despite rules preventing any judge from being a part of the plea process.

My lawyer, Dennis O’Brien, also failed to perform his duties regarding informing me about the 60-month plea deal. The government gave him a deadline of May 3, 2012 to accept the deal (or they would add more counts, and more time, to the next plea offer), and instead of e-mailing me or finding an expedited means of communication, he used snail mail. By the time I received the information, the offer had already expired, and I was forced to go to trial.

Later, attorney Dennis O-Brien also failed to investigate what the probation officer listed was a prior conviction for me despite that conviction being my brothers, not mine. My sentence was substantially increased as a result of my attorney’s failure to investigate and raised the issue at my sentencing.

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