Miss. men get prison, fines for explosives stolen from base
The (Biloxi, Miss.) Sun Herald/MCT
GULFPORT -- A federal judge has fined and sentenced two men to prison in an explosives case, saying their decision to steal military-grade munitions from a Camp Shelby firing range to sell for scrap was "foolish, imprudent and unwise."
Chief U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. on Monday ordered Jimmy Lee Wilson, 48, of Gulfport to serve eight years in prison and pay a $10,000 fine. The judge said the fine could have been higher, but the amount was based on Wilson's ability to pay.
Guirola gave David Eugene Bangs, 48, of Biloxi, a prison term of six years and three months and fined him $7,500.
Both will be on supervised release for three years once they're out of prison.
They are among five Harrison County residents indicted after an explosion on Saucier Lane in Gulfport crippled a man Jan. 19. Federal agents said the man, who was not charged, was using an acetylene torch to cut an anti-tank round when it exploded. His injuries led au
thorities to 51 complete or partial anti-tank rounds at the Gulfport home, resulting in an evacuation and detonations by an Army unit.
The devices were 84-mm AT4s, armor-piercing rounds taken from a fenced-in firing range at the military training camp near Hattiesburg. The fence had been cut. Authorities said Jimmy Wilson admitted he cut the fence for easier access to the firing range.
The devices are covered under federal laws designed to deter terrorist attacks.
Terrorism not suspected
Guirola said it appears the men didn't intend to commit terrorist acts, but they jeopardized the safety of the communities they live in and drove through, and the safety of law enforcement and bomb teams.
The judge said Wilson and Bangs accepted plea agreements to charges that did not accurately reflect their involvement, with Bangs admitting to a charge that could have resulted in a harsher sentence.
"They all did the same thing," Guirola said. "They all transported the same materials."
Wilson pleaded guilty to possession of a destructive device.
Wilson said he wasn't aware the devices were like a bomb, and it wasn't his intention to do anything that would harm anyone, "especially children," he said. "I've got kids of my own."
The munitions were taken from a firing range considered so volatile that targets are dropped down by helicopter, according to an Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent.
Children on the site
Three children were living in a house on the property where Dale Ray Johnson, 33, was severely injured in the explosion. The land is near other homes and within a mile of churches and Three Rivers Elementary School.
Bangs pleaded guilty to unlawful transportation of explosive devices. The judge Monday asked Bangs if he wanted to address the court or the community. Bangs declined.
Wilson and Bangs both have prior felony convictions. Bangs was on probation and tested positive for cocaine at the time of his arrest, records show.
Lance Daniel Looney, 26, also has accepted a plea agreement. His sentencing is set for Sept. 18.
The prosecution of Wilson's brother, Jack Bernell Wilson, 46, is pending. He has pleaded guilty to a charge of felon in possession of firearms from a related indictment. Jack Wilson will be sentenced on that charge Nov. 15. His prosecution in the explosives case was put on hold pending a psychiatric evaluation.
The fifth person indicted was Lucy Rebecca Saucier, the Wilsons' sister. Saucier, 50, lived on the property on Saucier Lane. She died March 14.
Distributed by MCT Information Services