Judge upholds decision to deny Jenkins his guns; hearing set on grand jury minutes, testimony

Sep. 26—A federal judge on Tuesday denied Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins' request to get his firearms back.

Jenkins, who in April pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring and making false statements to acquire machine guns, had already asked a magistrate judge for a change to his pretrial release conditions in July.

That judge denied his request, and Jenkins later appealed. He argued that his safety was at risk if he didn't have access to firearms.

U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher on Tuesday upheld the magistrate judge's denial.

"While this case is unusual in some respects, it remains true here that persons charged with criminal offenses face stresses and pressures that generally militate against their having ready access to firearms, in order to protect community safety," Gallagher wrote in her order.

She also wrote that Jenkins' safety concerns could be mitigated by ensuring "that he is accompanied by an armed colleague" in dangerous situations and by making decisions that took his circumstances into account.

"Although Jenkins, as an elected official, re-assumed active service as Sheriff of Frederick County, he decided to re-enter that role with full knowledge of the restrictions imposed in connection with his pre-trial release in this case," she wrote.

An attorney for Jenkins could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, Gallagher scheduled a motions hearing to discuss Jenkins' request for a release of the minutes and witness testimony from the grand jury that indicted him.

The hearing will be held in Baltimore on the morning of Oct. 19.

Jenkins has asked the court to make the grand jury materials public, even though such documents are typically kept secret. He has argued in court filings that the prosecution made potentially misleading statements about the facts of the case during the grand jury proceedings.

Prosecutors have disputed his allegations.

BACKGROUND ON CASEJenkins, along with local firearms business owner Robert Krop, were indicted in April on five counts of conspiring and making false statements to acquire machine guns.

Krop, who co-owns the shooting range The Machine Gun Nest, also faces an additional charge of illegal possession of machine guns.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

The indictment alleges that between 2015 and 2022, Krop drafted letters for Jenkins to sign on Frederick County Sheriff's Office letterhead, then sent them to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The letters stated that the sheriff's office was interested in seeing demonstrations of various machine guns.

Federal law generally prohibits the possession, transfer or importation of machine guns imported or manufactured after May 1986.

There is an exception: Licensed dealers like Krop can legally acquire post-1986 machine guns if a law enforcement agency says it has an interest in buying the guns or that it wants to see a demonstration.

To accomplish this, the law enforcement agency writes a "law letter" expressing its desire, which is sent in with an application the dealer files to the ATF. The ATF reviews applications before allowing the import or transfer of the machine guns.

The Machine Gun Nest never performed demonstrations for the Sheriff's Office, prosecutors said in their filing. The business rented out the guns to customers.

Krop has stated in previous court filings that he contacted Jenkins to try to set up demonstrations.

Prosecutors have alleged Jenkins told investigators that he signed the letters to aid Krop's business, and never said he had any interest in purchasing or seeing demonstrations of the guns.

Last month, Gallagher granted a motion to separate the trials of the two men, despite prosecutors' opposition.

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