Poplar Bluff man fights fine, gets 20 years in jail

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Daily American Republic

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- A Poplar Bluff man who could have paid a $75 fine for discharging a firearm in the city limits will spend nearly 20 years in federal prison for illegally possessing that weapon.

Preston Maxwell, 27, was sentenced to 235 months in prison Thursday by U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber after a jury convicted him in March of being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Sorrell.

The Poplar Bluff Police Department set up a special detail Dec. 31, 2001, to investigate the annual ritual of people firing gunshots to ring in the new year. Shortly after midnight, officers heard gunshots and traced them to Maxwell.

Maxwell reportedly refused to pay the fine and demanded a jury trial. He was convicted.

Prosecutors knew Maxwell had been convicted of felony aggravated battery and burglary, which is considered a violent crime. During the presentence investigation, they learned of a second felony aggravated battery charge.

The sentence "was the minimum for that guideline range because he was considered to be an armed career criminal," Sorrell said. "You have to have three prior convictions of crimes of violence."

Many presentencing investigations turn up additional convictions, Sorrel said, but "it's rare that an extra conviction turns up and it has this type of consequence."

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