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Henrico man gets 22 months in federal prison for recruiting people to straw-purchase guns used in robbery, murder
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Henrico man gets 22 months in federal prison for recruiting people to straw-purchase guns used in robbery, murder

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RTD - A1 Jan. 10, 2022

A Henrico County man who served time for accidentally killing a friend at a 2020 New Year’s Eve party in Richmond where 200 rounds were fired in “celebration” was sentenced to 22 months in federal prison Monday for his role in recruiting two people to make straw purchases of firearms from a local gun shop. Two of the guns later were used in an armed robbery in Prince George County and a fatal shooting in Washington, D.C.

Mateen Johnson, 26, who has an extensive history of firearm convictions, conspired with another man, Anthony Richardson, also 26, to acquire several guns from Town Police Supply in Chesterfield County between Feb. 1 and Feb. 6, 2019, according to a statement of facts submitted by federal prosecutors.

Johnson and Richardson, both convicted felons, recruited two people to purchase the guns on their behalf. One of the weapons, a Glock .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol, was later determined through laboratory analysis to have been used in a homicide on March 23, 2019, and in a separate shooting on March 9 of that same year — both in Washington, D.C., according to evidence.

A second gun, a Glock .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol, was used in an armed robbery in Prince George County on June 17, 2019.

“This case epitomizes the seriousness and danger of straw purchasing offenses: that those who would have others purchase firearms on their behalf are often persons prohibited from possessing firearms and/or have nefarious intent for those firearms,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Anthony wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “In this case, but for the defendant’s involvement [and] the co-conspirators ... the perpetrators of the violent crimes in Washington, D.C. and Prince George County likely would not have been able to use the firearms in question for those crimes.”

“This cavalier [attitude] towards the acquisition, possession and use of firearms permeates [Johnson’s] criminal history,” Anthony added. “And, as if courting disaster, the defendant’s continuous and contiguous behavior with and attitude towards guns led to disastrous results where, despite his own prior convictions and knowing the consequences that his [co-conspirators] had suffered because of firearms, he recklessly handled a firearm and killed another person.”

Johnson pleaded no contest on Sept. 25, 2020, in Richmond Circuit Court to involuntary manslaughter in the Jan. 1, 2020, shooting death of La-Tiyah S. Hood, 28, a mother of two children with whom Johnson was close. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with nine years and six months suspended.

In that case, Johnson participated in a “celebration” of the new year by firing, along with others, 200 rounds of ammunition “aimlessly into the air,” prosecutors said. Hood was struck by a bullet from Johnson’s gun when he attempted to clear a round that had jammed during the continuous gunfire.

Prosecutors noted that Johnson’s behavior, combined with his affiliation with the Bloods street gang, demonstrated his “fervent desire to acquire firearms” and resulted in multiple firearm convictions — “which make his criminal behavior in this case utterly inexcusable.”

Johnson was convicted at age 22 of possessing a concealed firearm and an assault weapon, for which he received a suspended sentence. About three months after being caught with those guns, Johnson committed a similar crime of concealing a Glock handgun. He was convicted and sentenced to serve one month of active jail time in that case, prosecutors said.

“During the same time that [Johnson] was receiving these charges and convictions, he was using large quantities of marijuana, selling firearms to others who had no business having them, and selling firearms which directly and indirectly and immediately caused harms to others,” Anthony wrote.

Following those crimes in 2016 and 2017, Johnson became involved in the 2019 straw purchase of guns from Town Police Supply despite being on probation for the earlier firearm offenses.

Johnson “repeatedly thumbed his nose at the criminal justice system and engorged himself in a world of firearms — purchasing, selling, trafficking, possessing and shooting — without much pause,” Anthony wrote. His criminal activity occurred despite having a personal history that prosecutors said demonstrated all the “privileges and opportunities” of having loving parents, a supportive family and a good childhood.

“The fact that he committed so many crimes in close succession to each other, committed them while on probation, and committed crimes which directly led to the death of multiple other people, [Johnson’s] criminal history is not, at all, overstated, and he should not be the beneficiary of any reduction in sentence,” Anthony argued in seeking a punishment within recommended federal sentencing guidelines, which called for an active term of 22 to 27 months.

Defense attorney Brent Jackson told the court that Johnson “changed dramatically” after the accidental shooting death of his friend, made positive changes and “vowed never go back” to the his former destructive lifestyle.

Johnson’s father, Donald Johnson, testified that his son cut his ties with former associates, discarded his old ways and worked two and three jobs before starting his own business to make an honest living. “He thought everything was behind him” until his past transgressions involving the straw purchase of guns “caught up with him” the father said.

“The involuntary manslaughter conviction was an incident that the defendant regrets each and every time he closes his eyes to go to sleep,” Jackson said, noting that Johnson has given money he earned to Hood’s family to help with the costs of raising her children. “He realizes he has a debt to pay.”

In a statement he read aloud in court, Johnson said he “regrets everything that happened” and has “made a conscious decision to turn my life around.” He asked the court for mercy.

U.S. District Court Judge David J. Novak rejected Johnson’s request, through his attorney, for a reduction or even a variance in his punishment, noting he already gave him credit for pleading guilty during the pandemic instead of taking his case to trial. “I think you have seen up close the danger of firearms,” Novak told Johnson.

But the judge said he took Johnson at his word that he was making significant changes, which “demonstrates he wants to live a straight life.”

Novak sentenced Johnson at the low end of the guidelines, gave him credit for time already served and ordered he undergo mental health treatment while in custody. He gave Johnson until March 4 to get his affairs in order before surrendering to begin serving his sentence.

“I’m going to be rooting for you, Mr. Johnson,” the judge said.

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