A man described by Justice Department attorneys as the ringleader of a gun trafficking ring that sent dozens of firearms south of the border and into the hands of Mexican drug cartels will spend less than a month behind bars for every gun that was illegally purchased.
Jose Abraham Nicanor was already a convicted felon when a jury found him guilty of 13 counts of illegally obtaining and trafficking firearms as well as charge of being a felon in possession of a gun, but despite the severity of the charges against him and his previous conviction for armed robbery Nicanor got away with what amounts as a slap on the wrist: a five-year prison stay.
That’s half the maximum penalty for simply possessing a gun as a convicted felon, which frankly, was probably the least serious crime that Nicanor was charged with committing.
At the hearing, the court heard evidence that showed Nicanor aggregated the firearms shipment to Mexico. In handing down the sentence, the court noted Nicanor’s conduct amounted to more than mistakes, but to a pattern of choices to violate the law.
At trial, the jury heard that Nicanor recruited two straw purchasers to buy high-caliber rifles that drug trafficking organizations regularly seek.
Testimony and evidence showed that a total of 94 firearms were attributable to Nicanor’s straw purchasing group. Mexican authorities later recovered some of the firearms in the possession of drug trafficking organizations.
The jury also heard that Nicanor rented a machine gun at a local gun range and posted a video of himself with the firearm to his social media.
As a convicted felon, he is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition per federal law.
The 60-month sentence is bad enough, but that’s not the worst of it. U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt actually allowed Nicanor to remain free on bond even after his sentence was handed down. Nicanor is supposed to “voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future,” according to a press release from the Justice Department. What are the odds that will actually happen, you think?
That press release also included some tough talk with a gun control spin from U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani, who declared that “my office, with its fearless prosecutors, will always be committed to aggressively pursuing those who exploit American gun laws so that weapons of war don’t reach violent criminals in Mexico and beyond.”
While I applaud Hamdani for securing a conviction at trial, his description of semi-automatic rifles as “weapons of war” is downright cringeworthy, though I’m sure his superiors are thrilled that he managed to insert one of Joe Biden’s favorite anti-gun talking points into his press release. I don’t think there’s much to brag about here, however, given the incredibly light sentence imposed on Nicanor by the judge here. Under 18 USC 933, trafficking in firearms can result in a 15-year prison sentence, so Nicanor did get off easy, though apparently, the two straw purchasers he recruited received even lighter sentences. The DOJ press release notes that James Paxton Jefferson and Alejandro Garcia “previously pleaded guilty and have been sentenced,” but neglects to mention what, exactly, their sentences were.
Hamdani should be incensed by the outcome of this case rather than boasting about it, but I guess DOJ would prefer we focus on the conviction and guilty plea and not the slaps on the wrist that the three men received as a result. I can’t say I blame them given the soft treatment they were given by the judiciary, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that what are supposed to be very serious federal offenses didn’t result in a serious sentence for Nicanor.