A felon who claimed he was reporting on the “gun show loophole” was sentenced Friday to eight years in federal prison for buying three guns at an event in Virginia.
A federal jury convicted Josiah John Weiss, 36, of Suitland, Maryland, of possession of a firearm by a felon in March, about a year after ATF agents witnessed him buying guns at a gun show.
According to court documents, agents surveilling “The Nation’s Gun Show” in Chantilly on April 25, 2015, saw Weiss give a seller a large amount of cash for two pistols and an AR-15. They followed him as he walked to the parking lot with two pistol boxes and the rifle.
Along with his behavior, Weiss bought pistols in Virginia but had Maryland tags on his car leading agents to suspect he had committed a crime. Under federal law, patrons can only buy handguns in the state where they live.
Agents followed him out of the parking lot, but Weiss noticed he was being followed and started driving erratically through a residential area. Fearing Weiss would crash, agents tried to conduct a traffic stop, but Weiss turned sporadically and sped away before they could take action. Although he evaded authorities, agents looked up his license plate number and were able to identify him by name.
They learned Weiss was prohibited from possessing firearms because of felony convictions that include aggravated identity theft and passport fraud. He was released on probation in 2011.
Verifying the transaction, agents interviewed the seller at the gun show. Looking at a mugshot, the seller confirmed Weiss bought a Tisas 1911 pistol, Tanfoglio Witness PS 9mm pistol, and an Anderson Manufacturing AR-15.
Later that day, agents searched Weiss’s apartment, but he wasn’t home and they did not find any firearms. ATF charged him with felony possession of a firearm on April 29, 2015, but lost his whereabouts for about six months. Then in November 2015, Weiss was arrested and agents searched a second apartment registered to a fake name, but still didn’t find the guns.
Arguing for a harsher sentence, federal prosecutors said the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Weiss possessed the three guns. With six felony convictions, prosecutors said that Weiss “may not qualify as a career offender, but (he) is a person dedicated to a life of crime” and recommended 10 years in prison.
In court, Weiss testified that he had had spoke to the private seller in the parking lot, but never touched any firearms. He said he bought three empty gun boxes for $180 and intended to photograph them for an article he was writing. In addition to working a series of minimum-wage jobs, he was an aspiring journalist and had even signed up for an online publication. However, he never published an article about his findings.
Objecting to accusations that he attempted to flee, Weiss’s attorney asked for a five-year sentence. He said agents were in an unmarked car and never flipped on emergency lights.
The court denied Weiss’s request for an acquittal and sided with the prosecutor.