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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Eastern District of California

For Immediate Release

Monday, June 04, 2012

Benjamin B. Wagner, United States Attorney

Contact: Lauren Horwood

Two Fresno Men Plead Guilty to Firearm Offenses as a Result of Project Safe Neighborhoods Investigations

FRESNO, Calif. – Garry Sampson, 34, of Fresno, pleaded guilty today to possession of a firearm after being convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, and Rodney Heather, 26, of Fresno, pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

The Sampson case is the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the California Highway Patrol. The Heather case is the product of an investigation by the Fresno Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force. Both prosecutions were part of the Project SAFE Neighborhoods initiative in which local, state and federal law enforcement join forces to combat gun and gang violence.

According to court documents, on January 16, 2012, Sampson was driving a car when officers of the California Highway Patrol attempted to conduct a traffic stop for nonfunctioning tail lights. The defendant ran from the car and tossed a gun he had in his waistband while officers were chasing him. Officers recovered a loaded Glock, Model 22, .40-caliber pistol with a high-capacity magazine. The magazine had 23 rounds of ammunition and there was one round in the chamber. Additionally, court documents indicate that Sampson has prior convictions for obstruction, receiving stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance while armed, and infliction of corporal injury upon a spouse or cohabitant.

According to court documents, on November 7, 2011, Heather was a passenger in a car that law enforcement officers stopped for a traffic violation. Heather had placed a gun under the seat where he was sitting. The driver was on probation and Heather was on parole at the time. Agents searched the car and found the loaded Llama .45-caliber handgun with one bullet in the chamber. Heather has a prior felony conviction for carrying a concealed weapon.

Sampson and Heather are scheduled to be sentenced on August 27, 2012 by United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill. The maximum statutory penalty for each charge is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.