Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Ex-Roanoke cop Abramski pleads guilty to federal gun charges
Bruce Abramski Jr. made his two guilty pleas this morning in U.S. District Court in Roanoke. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 3.
Bruce Abramski Jr. pleaded guilty to two federal felonies today, continuing to insist he hadn't known he was doing anything wrong and staking his bid for exoneration on an appeals court.
Bruce Abramski Jr.
Abramski and his attorney, Bill Cleaveland of Roanoke, said he was pleading guilty because U.S. District Court Judge Glen Conrad on Tuesday said he would not instruct the jury that Abramski had consulted firearms dealers and been told there was no problem with the gun purchase that led to the federal charges.
In months of legal sparring, Conrad had also ruled against Abramski on an array of motions that argued the charges should be set aside because of a flawed search warrant, because the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives may have exceeded its legal authority in requiring certain questions to be asked of gun buyers, and other issues.
Abramski pleaded under an agreement that preserved these objections for appeal. Prosecutors also agreed not to oppose his request to remain free on bond pending an appeal.
"You disagree with the rulings of this court as regards to the law, and this agreement allows you to test those rulings," Conrad said today.
Abramski made his two guilty pleas after about three and a half hours of negotiation and hearings this morning in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.
The former Roanoke police officer's long legal saga began last summer when investigators announced he was the chief suspect in a November 2009 bank robbery in Rocky Mount. Abramski turned himself in July 1, but was held without bond after a former police partner testified that Abramski, upset at marital and financial problems, had said in June 2010 that he wanted to kill law enforcement officers in Roanoke and Franklin County, where he lived.
In the fall, Franklin County's commonwealth's attorney dropped the bank robbery charges, saying he had not received key evidence from federal investigators.
Abramski was released from jail, but turned himself in again six weeks later when federal prosecutors brought the firearms charges. These stemmed from the purchase of a Glock pistol a few days after the bank robbery. Authorities initially thought Abramski bought the gun with stolen money. After searching Abramski's home, they found a receipt from his sale of the gun to his uncle, and charged him with making a straw purchase.
Abramski was again held without bond until Conrad ruled in December that he posed no threat to anyone. Since his release, Abramski has worked at the YMCA in Rocky Mount.
Abramski said today that he bought the pistol because he could get it cheaper than his uncle could near his home in Pennsylvania. Abramski transferred the gun to his uncle at a licensed gun dealer, with appropriate paperwork, as required by Pennsylvania law. Cleaveland said Abramski's uncle had consulted three Pennsylvania gun dealers who had said that having Abramski buy the gun in Virginia, then transfer it to his uncle in Pennsylvania, would not cause any problems.
"I bought my uncle a firearm," Abramski said in court. "I felt what we did was OK."
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Wolthuis said Abramski violated the law in two ways, by telling a Collinsville gun dealer that he was the actual purchaser of the gun, and by causing that dealer to maintain false records that Abramski bought the gun for himself. Additionally -- though this was not part of the charges -- Wolthuis noted that Abramski got the discount on the pistol by claiming to be a Roanoke police officer, something he had not been for nearly two years at that point.
Abramski's sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 3.