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Militia leader gets 6 1/2 years behind bars for machine gun possession

by The Associated Press | June 23, 2007 at 11:13 a.m.

— A leader of the Militia of Washington County has been sentenced to 6 1/2 years in federal prison for possessing banned weapons, including machine guns and a sawed-off shotgun.

"All I can say is, I love my God and I love my country," Hollis Wayne Fincher said before U.S. District Judge Jimm L. Hendren pronounced the sentence Friday.

Fincher, 61, was ordered to serve two years of supervised probation after his release from prison and was fined $1,000.

Fincher was arrested Nov. 8 at his home in the Black Oak community south of Fayetteville in a raid by Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents. Federal authorities said an investigation began in March 2006 after a newspaper published a story about Fincher and the militia that was accompanied by a picture of him holding a weapon.

At his trial in January, Fincher did not dispute that he had two .308-caliber machine guns, homemade versions of the Browning model 1919. Instead, he argued that the law under which he was charged is unconstitutional because it violates the 2nd Amendment's guarantee of citizens' rights to bear arms.

During Friday's sentencing hearing, Hendren commented on that defense, saying Fincher had the right to claim that the laws regarding firearms were not proper, but that did not change the fact that he must be held responsible for violating those laws.

Hendren said Fincher would have received a more lenient sentence had he entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

Testimony in the hearing dealt mostly with Fincher's health - the judge rejected a plea for leniency based on health, saying Fincher's problems aren't extraordinary enough to excuse him from prison - and with an informant's reports on activities at militia meetings.

Fincher's court-appointed attorney, Shannon Blatt, questioned the informant's reliability, asking a federal agent if the informant was drunk or drinking when he made his reports. The agent said he thought the informant drank, but he didn't see any evidence that would lead him to believe the informant was too impaired to reliably report the group's activities.

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