Convicted felons are prohibited from possessing firearms, and therefore cannot legally acquire them. Those who acquire firearms for a felon are themselves subject to criminal penalties. However, these cases are not often subject to the heightened media scrutiny and public attention placed on the case of Evan Ebel, a convicted felon and parolee who used a gun to kill Colorado’s prisons chief and a pizza delivery driver. He also shot, but did not kill, a Sheriff’s Deputy with that same gun. That gun was provided to him by a Ms. Vigil.
Ms. Vigil was sentenced to twenty seven months in prison. She was not charged as an accessory to the ultimate crime but solely with the provision of the firearm. She had pled guilty to one count of providing a firearm to a felon. There was no evidence presented that she either knew or should have known what Ebel would do with the firearm. Additionally, Ebel had asked several others to acquire a gun, so it seems as though he likely would have acquired a gun eventually.
Is a twenty seven month sentence in a case like this appropriate? The prosecutors asked for a six year term, and the maximum possible punishment is ten years in federal prison. While Ms. Vigil did not know what Ebel intended to do with the firearm, it was apparent that she knew he was a member of one of Colorado’s most dangerous prison gangs.
Is this a fair punishment given the eventual outcome, or should the punishment be contingent on what the defendant knew or reasonably should have known at the time the firearm was provided? Was the punishment meted out in this case in part based upon the fact that no one else has been charged in relation to the murders, since Ebel died in a shootout with deputies, and no other members of his prison gang have been charged? Should the punishment depend upon what the gun ultimately was used for?
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.