TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

September 25, 2008

Elliotts found not guilty

Jury finds former gun shop owners innocent on all charges

By Brad Hicks / Staff Writer

An emotional Leonard Elliott left his chair, walked across the room and knelt down to embrace his wheelchair-bound father as the court clerk read the jury’s verdict.

After approximately four hours of deliberation, the jury found Leonard Charles Elliott and Thomas Charles Elliott not guilty on all charges against them in U.S. District Court in London Wednesday.

The father and son, owners of the former Bacon Creek Gun Shop in Corbin, which closed in 2007, were charged with selling firearms to a person they knew to be a convicted felon and falsifying records required to be maintained by federally licensed firearms dealers.

Following the verdict, Leonard Elliott said it was faith and the support of his family, community and fellow church members that helped him through the investigation and this week’s three-day trial.

“All through this, I said ‘God, you’re in control,’” Leonard Elliott said. “I had faith in my savior Jesus Christ ... I just asked for a miracle and intervention, and, as you can see, God is alive ...We appreciate everyone’s love, concern and prayer.”

An investigation of the Elliotts began in 2005 after an informant, Letcher Gray, advised the ATF that they were selling firearms out of their gun shop through straw purchases, in which a person legally prohibited from owning a firearm gets another person to complete the required paperwork on his behalf for him to make the purchase.

Prior to becoming an informant, Gray was being investigated by ATF Special Agent Tom Chittum after the Kentucky State Police, responding to a domestic assault, found several firearms at Gray’s home. Gray, a convicted felon since the 1960s, is prohibited under state law from owning or possessing a firearm.

Chittum went undercover and purchased marijuana and a firearm from Gray. This firearm was traced back to Bacon Creek Gun Shop, Chittum said. Gray agreed to cooperate with investigators by entering the store, initiating conversations about gun purchases with the Elliotts and was ultimately instructed to negotiate the purchase of a firearm while an undercover KSP officer completed the paperwork.

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