A St. Francis County man indicted in the theft of a number of guns, including a Thompson Auto Ordinance Model 1928 .45ACP sub-machine gun worth an estimated $50,000 to $75,000, was sentenced Wednesday to time served and ordered to seek substance abuse and mental health counseling.
Tommy Lee Immel, 59, of Colt, was arrested in March 2019 in Wynne in connection with three burglaries of Ted's Marine and Sporting Goods in Colt during the last week of February 2019. Also arrested was Immel's son, 23-year-old Tyler Immel.
Both men were indicted by a federal grand jury in December 2019 on federal counts of theft of firearms from a licensed dealer, possession of stolen firearms and possession of a machine gun. Also indicted was a third man, 29-year-old Cornelius Banks of Wynne, on charges of possession of stolen firearms and possession of a machine gun.
Both Tommy and Tyler Immel pleaded guilty in May to one count each of possession of a machine gun. Banks is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 23 before Chief U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. Tyler Immel has not yet been scheduled for sentencing.
According to court records, Tommy Immel told Arkansas State Police that he had entered Ted's Marine and Sporting Goods through a broken back window and had taken some cash while walking around the store.
He told police that, later, he and his son went to the store and -- using a sledgehammer -- broke into a gun vault and took several rifles, some collectible coins and other items and hid them in the woods behind the store. He said the two went back to the store the following day and took more guns, estimating they may have taken as many as 30 firearms.
An inventory of the missing items indicated that 22 firearms, including the Thompson sub-machine gun, were taken along with a quantity of ammunition, collectible coins, rifle scopes and other items.
Immel's attorney, Megan Wilson, asked Marshall to sentence Immel to 28 months and, pointing out that he had spent 32 months and seven days in federal custody in the Greene County jail in Paragould, asked for a time served sentence.
"Time in jail is certainly considered to be a little more harsh than time spent actually in the Bureau of Prisons," Wilson said, "especially when one doesn't have the financial means to put money on their books to have better resources and better food while in jail."
Wilson said that Immel's criminal history was fueled by childhood and adult trauma and said drugs were his coping mechanism. That drug habit, she said, was supported through theft.
"He lost his father, mother, brother, four sisters, another brother -- they've all died over the course of his life," she said. "He had some physical abuse he suffered at the hands of an older brother that essentially tortured him on a daily basis."
Wilson said that while in custody, Immel had spent time reflecting on his life and had begun reading the Bible and planned to live with his wife in Palestine and begin attending church.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Onassis Walker did not object, saying that Immel's time in the Greene County lockup, "checks the box for punishment."
"I know I did what I did and it was wrong," Immel said. "I've had a lot of time to reflect and get close to God and I'm going to do my best to stay out. I'm getting too old for this."
Wilson showed Marshall a prepared statement that Immel had written but was unable to read because he had not been allowed to bring reading glasses to the hearing. She handed it first to Walker, then to the judge, both of whom read it silently.
"It's a powerful statement," Marshall said, visibly moved by what he had read. "All things considered, the lawyers have come to the right place. ... No more jail or prison time for you."
Marshall also ordered Immel to serve three years supervised release.
"I think the three years will help you get your feet underneath you," Marshall said. "Do you remember how you signed off that letter, what you said at the end ... right above your name?"
"A changed man," Immel said, his voice shaking and his eyes filling with tears.
"A changed man," Marshall repeated, gently. "I believe it. Make it so over the next few years."