Colt man gets time served in gun possession case

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A St. Francis County man accused of stealing a number of firearms, including a Thompson Auto Ordinance Model 1928 .45ACP submachine gun worth an estimated $50,000 to $75,000, has been sentenced Wednesday to time served and sentenced to seek substance abuse and mental health counseling.

Tommy Lee Immel, 59, of Colt, was arrested in March 2019 in Wynne in connection with three burglaries of Ted’s Marine and Sporting Goods at Colt in the last week of February 2019. Immel’s son, 23, Tyler Immel, was also arrested. .

Both men were indicted by a federal grand jury in December 2019 on federal counts of theft of firearms from an authorized dealer, possession of stolen firearms and possession of a machine gun. . A third man, Cornelius Banks of Wynne, 29, was also charged with possession of stolen firearms and possession of a machine gun.

Both Tommy and Tyler Immel pleaded guilty in May to one count each of possessing a machine gun. Banks is scheduled to stand trial Jan. 23 before U.S. District Chief Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. Tyler Immel has not yet been sentenced.

According to court records, Tommy Immel told Arkansas State Police that he entered Ted’s Marine and Sporting Goods through a broken rear window and took cash while walking through the store.

He told police that later he and his son went to the store and – using a hammer – broke into a gun safe and took several guns, parts of collectible coins and other items and hid them in the woods behind the store. He said the two men returned to the store the next day and took more guns, estimating they could have taken up to 30 guns.

An inventory of missing items indicated that 22 firearms, including the Thompson submachine gun, had been taken along with a quantity of ammunition, collectible coins, rifle scopes and other items.

Immel’s attorney, Megan Wilson, asked Marshall to sentence Immel to 28 months and, pointing out that he had spent 32 months and seven days in federal custody in the Greene County Jail in Paragould, asked for a sentence purged.

“Time in prison is definitely considered a bit tougher than time in the Bureau of Prisons,” Wilson said, “especially when you don’t have the financial wherewithal to put money on your books to have better resources and better food in prison.”

Wilson said Immel’s criminal history was fueled by childhood and adult trauma and drugs were his coping mechanism. This drug addiction, she said, was fueled by theft.

“He lost his father, his mother, his brother, his four sisters, another brother – they all died in his lifetime,” she said. “He suffered physical abuse from an older brother who basically tortured him on a daily basis.”

Wilson said that while in detention, Immel spent time reflecting on his life and started reading the Bible and planned to live with his wife in Palestine and begin attending church.

Assistant United States Attorney Edward Onassis Walker did not object, saying Immel’s time in the Greene County jail “checked the punishment box.”

“I know I did what I did and it was wrong,” Immel said. “I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and get closer to God and I’m going to do my best to stay away. I’m getting too old for that.”

Wilson showed Marshall a prepared statement that Immel had written but was unable to read because he had not been allowed to bring reading glasses to the hearing. She handed it first to Walker, then to the judge, who both read it in silence.

“It’s a powerful statement,” Marshall said, visibly moved by what he read. “All things considered, the lawyers are in the right place. … No more jail or jail time for you.”

Marshall also ordered Immel to serve three years of probation.

“I think the three years will help put your feet up,” Marshall said. “Do you remember how you signed that letter, what you said at the end…just above your name?”

“A changed man,” Immel said, his voice shaking and his eyes filling with tears.

“A changed man,” Marshall repeated softly. “I believe so. Keep it that way for the next few years.”

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