Court Considers Whether Accused Firearms Offender may be Held

Court Considers Whether Accused Firearms Offender may be Held

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a man held in jail while it gives further thought to whether his being a domestic-violence offender accused of illegal firearms possession justifies keeping him behind bars pending trial.

The girlfriend of Kenneth Charles Rogers, 50, asked Centerville police on Feb. 4 to assist her in moving out of their residence because she feared for her safety. While in the home, officers asked Rogers if he had any weapons there and he showed them handgun and rifle cases.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched court records and learned that Rogers was under a protection order issued in January 2002, and had been convicted of misdemeanor assault in a domestic violence case, according to an affidavit by an ATF agent.

The agents obtained a search warrant and found a pistol, a shotgun and ammunition at the home.

Rogers was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm while subject to a protective order and possession of a firearm following a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence.

A magistrate ordered him held until his trial, finding that there was a "serious risk that the defendant will endanger the safety of another person in the community."

Rogers appealed and U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart ruled on June 27 that the charges against Rogers were not "crimes of violence" that required a detention hearing under the federal Bail Reform Act.

Federal prosecutors appealed to the 10th Circuit, which on July 1 ordered Rogers held while it further considers the prosecutors' appeal.

"We conclude that there is a substantial risk that defendant's possession of a firearm could play a part in the commission of a crime of violence against another individual," the three-judge panel said.

Rogers' case fell under Project Safe Neighborhoods, a nationwide effort to provide tougher enforcement of existing firearm laws through the cooperation of federal, state and local agencies.

Lawyers on both sides in the Rogers case are filing additional briefs this month centering on whether the alleged offenses should be considered crimes of violence that allow prosecutors to request a detention hearing.

Prosecutors say appeals courts around the nation and courts within Utah have split on the issue.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Bearnson said Rogers has a history of domestic violence that includes the issuance of four protective orders at the request of four different women and a 2002 misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence assault.

Defense attorney Michael Boyle said the four complaints came over a period of six years, and he contends Rogers has never been a threat to the community.

In the current case, the guns were stowed in an interior room of the house and never taken out or brandished, he said.

Boyle said that the long stay in jail has been unnecessary to protect the community and has badly hurt Rogers' business, which he declined to identify.

No date has been set for a ruling on whether Rogers should stay in jail, but the appeals court has put the case on an expedited schedule.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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