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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

District of New Mexico

For Immediate Release

April 21, 2011

Kenneth J. Gonzales, United States Attorney

Contact: Elizabeth Martinez, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney, Public Affairs Officer

Jury Finds Albuquerque Man Guilty of Federal Firearms Offense

ALBUQUERQUE – This morning in federal court in Albuquerque, a jury convicted Vernon Lee Baker, a 53-year-old Albuquerque resident, of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition after a three-day trial. United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said that, if the court determines that Baker is an armed career offender based on his prior criminal history, Baker faces a mandatory minimum fifteen-year term of imprisonment and a maximum of life-time of imprisonment at sentencing. Baker has been in federal custody since his arrest on February 24, 2009 and remains detained pending sentencing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Baker was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition in an indictment filed on July 22, 2008 that was superseded on October 21, 2009. According to the superseding indictment, Baker unlawfully possessed a shotgun and ammunition on June 4, 2008 in Bernalillo County. According to the superseding indictment, Baker was precluded from possessing firearms and ammunition because he previously had been convicted of at least four felony offenses in the Second Judicial District Court of the State of New Mexico: armed robbery; aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and bribery of a witness; robbery while armed with a deadly weapon; and aggravated assault against a household member.

The trial evidence established that, on the evening of June 4, 2008, a concerned citizen called the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) to report that a man was in the parking lot of an apartment complex located at 901 Tramway Boulevard Northeast was loading what appeared to be a shotgun that the man obtained from the trunk of a white Buick, and provided a description of the man. Two APD officers responded to the call and went to the apartment complex where they learned that Baker, a man matching the description provided by the concerned citizen and who provided a false identity, claimed that he had borrowed the Buick from his nephew. A resident of an apartment in the complex provided the officers with Baker's true identity and confirmed that Baker was driving the white 1993 Buick. After undertaking additional investigation to confirm Baker’s identity, the officers took Baker into custody because he had two misdemeanor warrants for his arrest and because he attempted to conceal his identity.

Because Baker refused to give the officers permission to search the Buick and the officers had observed several burglary tools, including a weighted ignition punch, a screw driver, and a hammer, inside the car, they obtained a warrant to search the Buick. During the search of the Buick, the officers found a loaded Mossberg Maverick, model 88, 12 gauge shotgun in the trunk of the car.

During the trial, the jury learned that Baker was a convicted felon when he possessed the firearm and ammunition on June 4, 2008 from a probation officer who supervised Baker. An agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) testified that the shotgun had been test-fired and was fully functional.

The jury deliberated for approximately two and a half hours before returning its verdict.

The case was investigated by ATF and APD, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kimberly A. Brawley and Linda Mott.