Gun purchase nets prison sentence

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BURLINGTON — A convicted felon, who had a Barre woman buy him three handguns in exchange for drugs last year, was sentenced Thursday to two years in federal prison.

Jamie Negron-Hernandez, 23, of Springfield, Mass. had the three guns in a bag when the car he was riding in was stopped in Rockingham by Vermont State Police on March 5, 2018.

Negron-Hernandez told police they were headed to Elliot Street in Brattleboro, but in U.S. District Court Thursday authorities believe the guns were eventually going to land in Springfield, Mass.

"We have a problem with guns that leave the state and a lot go to Springfield," Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugenia A.P. Cowles said during the sentencing.

Federal Judge Christina Reiss agreed. "Drugs and guns go together and that's how people get killed."

Negron-Hernandez is prohibited from possessing any firearms because of his criminal record, which includes a felony conviction in Massachusetts for possession of a firearm without a Massachusetts Firearm Identification Card in July 2015.

Two days before the traffic, stop Susan K. Silva, 26, of Barre, bought the firearms at R & L Archery on Smith Street in Barre, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said. They were a 40-caliber semi-automatic Glock pistol, a 9-mm semi-automatic Glock pistol and a .45-caliber semi-automatic Haskell Hi-Point.

Negron-Hernandez was with a group of people southbound on Interstate 91 near U.S. 5 in Rockingham when stopped by police. Vermont State Police Sgt. Ryan Wood reported he spotted a duffel bag in the trunk of the car during a consent search.

Wood obtained a search warrant from a state judge for the bag, which contained three handguns with serial numbers matching the firearms purchased by Silva and $10,200 in cash, the ATF said.

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Judge Reiss noted that Negron-Hernandez had taken responsibility for his actions early. He also has been taking advantage of prison programs while detained, she said. Reiss said she was pleased to learn Negron-Hernandez also has his step-father, Jimmy Cowell, a former teacher, waiting in the community to help when he is released.

Reiss told Negron-Hernandez he will be on supervised release for three years once discharged from prison. Reiss agreed to recommend he serve his sentence at the federal prison in Danbury, Conn., so he can have contact with his family, including his young son.

Reiss told the defendant he was fortunate the government did not file a more serious charge that could have netted a mandatory five-year prison term.

The judge said he also needs to resolve a pending case from when police seized three bags of heroin and more than $500 in Springfield.

Federal law makes it illegal to buy firearms on behalf of another person. Silva maintained that the three handguns she bought on March 3, 2018 were for her, court records show.

Negron-Hernandez eventually pleaded guilty to the felon in possession charge.

Federal Judge William K. Sessions III gave Silva a break last week by sentencing her to the 29 days she served in prison. He also ordered her to serve 12 months on supervised release with the U.S. Probation Office. Sessions also imposed numerous conditions in an effort to keep Silva, who is pregnant, focused.

Sessions said it appeared to him Silva has turned her life around and had a support system with family and counselors.

Silva's arrest was part of a special investigation started by the Vermont Drug Task Force and included the ATF, Montpelier and Barre City Police into drug trafficking in the Washington County area. More than two dozen people were arrested on either federal or state charges.


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