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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

District of Alaska

For Immediate Release

July 21, 2011

Karen L. Loeffler, United States Attorney

Contact: Kelly Cavanaugh, Assistant U.S. Attorney
(907) 271-5071

Nicholai Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Illegal Possession of Firearms

Anchorage, Alaska — United States Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that a Nicholas man was sentenced in federal court in Anchorage to 57 months in prison for his conviction of being a felon in possession of firearms.

On July 20, 2011, Michael Richard Stearns, 58, a resident of Nicholai, Alaska, was sentenced by United States District Judge Timothy M. Burgess.

According to information presented to the court by Assistant United States Attorney Kelly Cavanaugh, on July 29, 2010, in the rural Alaskan village of Nicholai (population 88), Alaska State Troopers responded to a report that an individual had been shot at the defendant’s residence. While executing a search warrant on the defendant’s residence, Alaska State Troopers found 24 loaded handguns and 59 rifles in the defendant’s bedroom. Among the 59 rifles were two fully automatic firearms. The defendant had previously been convicted of five felony offenses out of Yreka, California: disposing of insured property in 1979, possession of an explosive and possession of a dangerous weapon in 1980, vehicular manslaughter in 1985, felon in possession of a firearm in 1991, and manufacture of methamphetamine in 1992.

Judge Burgess stated that he felt it was clear that Stearns had dominion and control over those weapons and had directed his wife to purchase those weapons for him. Judge Burgess further stated,

This case was not about the Second Amendment, but about the number of weapons, whether a person can own the weapons, and what kind of weapons were owned

and that the defendant’s life was immersed in weapons. Judge Burgess also reasoned that this was a serious matter, given the quantity and type of firearms, as well as the defendant’s criminal history.

Stearns was prosecuted as part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska’s Rural Prosecution Initiative, a part of the Department of Justice’s commitment to improved public safety for rural Alaska and Alaskan tribal communities.

Ms. Loeffler commended the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and Alaska State Troopers for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Stearns.