Jury fails to reach verdict in firearm silencer case for gun collector
A jury spent more than five hours Thursday deciding whether a lawyer and gun collector committed a crime when he bought a "hit man's gun" with an illegal silencer.
But jurors couldn't reach a verdict and will continue deliberating Friday.
Thomas Michael Barrett, 54, a Wauwatosa lawyer, was arrested in August 2011 during a reverse sting outside Mayfair Mall.
Police say he paid an informant $400 for two stolen guns and a silencer, with the transaction recorded by detectives. Barrett was charged with possessing a firearm silencer, a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.
Barrett has put up an energetic, sustained defense with help from a series of attorneys. At one point, he argued the state's law that sharply restricts silencers amounts to an unconstitutional infringement of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Barrett took the witness stand in his own defense Wednesday. He told jurors a former client had told him about a friend who might have some pistols to sell. Barrett said he's been a gun enthusiast since he was a boy. (After his arrest, detectives seized more than two dozen guns from Barrett's home, all of which he legally owned).
The seller was Michael Bond, a man with a long criminal record who was federally indicted months before the gun deal with leading a major marijuana distribution ring in Milwaukee. He was looking to help authorities, and earn a break at his sentencing.
The guns, and the silencer, and his story of them probably being stolen, were all provided by detectives working with an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms task force.
Barrett, who has no prior criminal record, said when Bond first mentioned on the phone that one gun had a silencer on it, Barrett didn't believe him. When he met with Bond and saw the two guns and the silencer in the parking lot, Barrett said he thought the item looked like a silencer, but he still wasn't sure it was one.
As to his offer to help Bond "dispose of it," if it was a silencer, Barrett said he knew that he could turn it in to the ATF.
Prosecutors tried to show Barrett, who was an amateur gunsmith, clearly knew the item was an illegal silencer and may have been trying to get Bond to just give it to him.
Barrett said as soon as he met Bond, he became a bit nervous that he was perhaps being set up to be robbed. He said he kept trying to do some "fast talking" to get out of the situation without upsetting Bond. He said he initially offered to buy the gun without the silencer for more than Bond had been asking.
But Bond kept insisting Barrett should buy both and then offered to sell them for $400, well less than the $600 they had discussed over the phone.
"I didn't want to piss him off," Barrett said. "He wouldn't take no for an answer."
On cross examination, Assistant District Attorney Megan Williamson challenged Barrett's contention that he wasn't sure the item was a silencer, noting he had removed it from the gun and examined it.
She also asked why, if his intention was to turn the item in to ATF, he stored it separately in a locked box after the purchase and made detectives get a separate search warrant to open it, rather than just immediately offer the suspect item to authorities.
"I had just been arrested, by a bunch of people with machine guns," he said. "I was in shock."
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