, Corbin, KY

Local News

February 6, 2013

Bunn pleads guilty to federal charges

CORBIN — By John L. Ross / Staff Writer

A Louisiana man facing several charges related to a gun stolen in Florida and a resulting high-speed chase in Kentucky appeared for a re-arraignment in Federal Court in London Tuesday.

Thomas William Bunn, 26, appeared before U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves with a plea agreement in hand.

As part of the agreement, Bunn pleaded guilty to federal charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

According to Reeves, the sentence for that offense is “no more than 10 years, and no more than a $250,000 fine.” He would also face supervised release for three years.

A sentencing hearing for Bunn has been scheduled for May 7.

Bunn’s attorney, Samuel B. Castle Jr., of Barbourville, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Dotson stood before Reeves to discuss Bunn’s plea agreement Tuesday.

Reeves chastised Castle for not meeting deadlines concerning court documents, saying there “are deadlines for filing motions.”

Castle explained the negotiations for the plea agreement had been conducted during “the last few weeks” but that a final agreement had not been received until Monday.

Reeves said he wanted to receive necessary court documents “in advance” which drew an apology from Castle.

“Deadlines are deadlines — not guidelines,” Reeves said.

Then Reeves explained Bunn needed to answer a few questions concerning his competency in relation to his federal charges and the plea agreement.

After being sworn in, Bunn told Reeves he could read and write, and was “kicked out” of a high school equivalency program in Louisiana during 12th grade.

Other than a childhood diagnosis of ADHD, Bunn testified he had no mental or addiction issues to keep him from understanding Tuesday’s proceedings.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Dotson reviewed Bunn’s agreement for the court, beginning with the charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. “(There is) factual basis to prove at trial beyond a reasonable doubt (this charge),” Dotson said. “(The) defendant admits these facts.”

He also discussed how related circumstances forced the case to go federal, as well as other issues to determine sentencing guidelines.

Dotson also discussed appeals. Bunn can only appeal the sentence — the agreement states he cannot appeal the guilty plea or the conviction itself.

Now the court will await a pre-sentencing report, at which time either side can offer their objections, if any.

Reeves pointed out some of the factors considered during the sentencing phase — including the nature of the circumstances, the suspect’s character and history, and the seriousness of the offense.

Then Reeves reviewed what led to Bunn’s federal charges.

“(You) have been convicted of knowingly possessing (a firearm),” Reeves said, adding that weapon was an AK-15. Reeves said since Bunn brought the gun from Florida to Kentucky, it was “interstate commerce.”

Reeves asked for Bunn’s version of those events. “(I) stole the gun out of Florida,” Bunn said. “Then I (came across) the interstate with it — that (was) what made it (the charges) interstate commerce.”

It was also said transportation of the gun could be further proven, as the weapon was manufactured in Florida.

Bunn also testified Tuesday he did possess that stolen firearm while in Williamsburg, and he agreed there was enough evidence to prove him guilty during a jury trial.

Reeves asked Bunn if he was, in fact, guilty of the one-count indictment. “Yes,” answered Bunn.

Dotson officially accepted the plea agreement, and Castle officially agreed to it on behalf of Bunn.

Reeves, then, accepted the plea agreement and officially judged Bunn as guilty.

However, there are several charges pending outside the federal court system.

According to an affidavit submitted by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent Todd Tremaine, Bunn’s crime spree began soon after his release from a Louisiana correctional facility for felony bank fraud charges.

Bunn was released from state custody in Louisiana in August 2012 and absconded from his parole in mid-October. At that same time, St. Tammany Parish, La. sheriff’s detectives were investigating two residential burglaries near Bunn’s residence, one of which Bunn admitted he was the driver.

Through their investigation into the burglaries, St. Tammany Parish detectives learned Bunn was driving a truck registered to his father, who requested a tracking device be placed on the vehicle.

That led detectives to Florida.

The truck then ended up in Jackson County, Fla. On Oct. 22, a burglary was reported in that county, during which a Tactical Weapons Solutions AR-15, .223-caliber rifle was reported stolen.

Tremaine stated in the affidavit that during questioning, Bunn admitted he was running out of money in Florida and burglarized a home there.

That’s when the Louisiana detectives turned their focus to an online database called “LEADS,” which allows law enforcement officials nationwide to see if stolen weapons end up in pawn shops.

Which then led detectives to Williamsburg, where the LEADS database showed the stolen rifle appeared in the Fast Cash Pawn Shop. Williamsburg Chief of Police Wayne Bird advised that gun has been pawned by Bunn for $300.

But Bunn’s crime spree was not yet over.

On Oct. 29, 2012, Corbin Police were dispatched to the Days Inn at the south I-75 exit to investigate reports of a suspicious vehicle. Patrolman Kyle Gray found the vehicle in question, and when he went to question the driver, that driver fled the scene.

Police pursued the vehicle onto northbound I-75, where the driver led law enforcement on a 24-mile high-speed chase, at times reaching speeds exceeding 100 mph.

The vehicle chase ended about Exit 49, but not before the driver damaged or disabled five law enforcement vehicles. The driver abandoned the vehicle and fled into the woods on foot.

A search of the abandoned vehicle, a truck, uncovered a pawn ticket for the AR-15 with Bunn’s name and address listed, as well as 20 rounds of ammunition for the weapon. Corbin Police Detective Rusty Hedrick received information from a confidential informant that Bunn was staying at a Whitley County residence, where he was arrested.

Corbin Police charged Bunn with 15 counts of first-degree wanton endangerment to officers, three counts of first-degree criminal mischief and one count each of fleeing or evading police by motor vehicle, first-degree fleeing or evading police by foot, speeding 26 mph or more over the posted speed limit and reckless driving.

Bunn already has three felony convictions under his belt. Two convictions came in 2004, one for possession of cocaine and the other for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. His third felony conviction of bank fraud came in 2009.

No court date has yet been set concerning the Corbin Police charges. Bunn will likely be facing charges in Louisiana and Florida, too. Bunn remains in federal custody.

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