U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
District of New Mexico
District of New Mexico
For Immediate Release
March 20, 2013
Kenneth Gonzales, United States Attorney
Contact: Elizabeth Martinez
Federal Jury Convicts Albuquerque Man For Unlawfully Possessing A Firearm
Prior Felon Brandished Pistol at 17-Year-Old and Threatened to Kill Her
ALBUQUERQUE — A federal jury returned a guilty verdict this morning against Christian Alexander Sangiovanni, 32, of Albuquerque, N.M., for being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition after a two-day trial, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg, and Thomas G. Atteberry, Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Sangiovanni was arrested in Aug. 2012, on an indictment charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The indictment alleged that Sangiovanni unlawfully possessed a firearm and ammunition on April 25, 2010, in Bernalillo County, N.M. At the time, Sangiovanni was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he previously had been convicted of the following three felony offenses in the 12th Judicial District Court for the State of New Mexico: embezzlement in 2000; sexual exploitation of children in 2001; battery on a police officer in 2003. He also previously had been convicted of possession of heroin with intent to distribute in the 4th Judicial District Court for the State of New Mexico in Guadalupe County in 2005.
According to the evidence at trial, on April 25, 2010, a 17-year-old high school student encountered Sangiovanni, an acquaintance she knew through a mutual friend, at a convenience store in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque while running an errand for her mother. When the teenager parked her car, Sangiovanni got into the front passenger seat. After yanking the car keys out of the ignition and slapping a cellphone out of the teenager’s hand to prevent her from calling for help, Sangiovanni pulled a firearm out, brandished the weapon at the teenager, and threatened her against getting out of the car. During the encounter, Sangiovanni told the teenager that, “I have no problem blasting both of us right now, you first, then me.” After a time, Sangiovanni permitted the teenager to enter the store, make her purchase and return home.
Later that night, Sangiovanni sent the teenager an E-mail in which he threatened her against telling anyone about the violent encounter. Thereafter, Sangiovanni E-mailed the teenager photographs of himself holding a pistol to his head. On April 26, 2010, the teenager and her mother contacted the police and reported Sangiovanni’s threats against the teenager and provided the E-mails containing the threats and photographs of Sangiovanni holding the pistol to his head.
On May 3, 2010, after Sangiovanni continued to send threatening E-mails to the teenager, officers executed an arrest and search operation at a residence where Sangiovanni was staying. After arresting Sangiovanni on state charges, the officers found a Smith & Wesson, model 459, 9mm pistol with an extended magazine that contained rounds of ammunition. The pistol subsequently was identified by the teenager as the weapon that Sangiovanni brandished at her on April 25, 2010.
The jury deliberated approximately three hours before returning a guilty verdict.
Sangiovanni has been in federal custody since his arrest and remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. Sangiovanni faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison unless the court determines that he is an armed career criminal. In that event, Sangiovanni faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said that the case was prosecuted as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this anti-violence initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.
District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg added, “Our partnership with the U. S. Attorney’s Office is integral to reducing the violence in Bernalillo County. It is imperative to remove armed felons from our community.”
Today’s guilty verdict puts a violent offender back behind bars and off the streets. Anytime we can prevent a violent felon from possessing a firearm, our families and communities are safer,” stated ATF Special Agent in Charge, Thomas G. Atteberry. “I want to commend the leadership of U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales and his prosecution team in pursuing federal firearms charges against Sangiovanni.” Mr. Atteberry also recognized the efforts of the dedicated ATF agents and the Albuquerque Police Department officers who perfected this criminal case.
The case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives with assistance from the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Albuquerque Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Norman Cairns and Adam S. Rowley.