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Juries Return Convictions in Two Separate “Operation 922” Domestic-Violence Gun Trials

OKLAHOMA CITY – TERRENCE L. HILL, 38, of Oklahoma City, and RONALD BENTON, 47, of Temple, Oklahoma, have been convicted in separate cases of illegally possessing ammunition and a firearm respectively, announced U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing.  Both cases are part of “Operation 922,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s effort to prosecute individuals who perpetrate domestic violence and violate federal gun laws.

The Terrence L. Hill Conviction

A grand jury indicted Terrence Hill on February 5, 2019, for possessing four .380 caliber steel cartridge casings after having been convicted of a felony.  On October 8 and 9, 2019, a federal jury heard evidence that Hill, who has a felony conviction, shot his former girlfriend at her residence in northwest Oklahoma City in the early morning hours of September 19, 2018.  After having dated for approximately two years, Hill and his girlfriend broke up in early 2018.  The girlfriend filed a petition for a protective order against Hill in Oklahoma County District Court on September 12, 2018.  The evidence at trial showed that on the evening of September 18, 2018, Hill called his former girlfriend and threatened to kill her and her daughter.  After a nearly sleepless night, the girlfriend saw Hill in her backyard at around 7:00 a.m.  According to the trial evidence, he fired at least four shots at her through a patio window and hit her twice in the back as she tried to escape.  Investigators recovered four casings in the backyard.  The victim’s wounds were not fatal.

On October 11, 2019, a jury unanimously found Hill guilty of possessing ammunition after a felony conviction.  At sentencing, he faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.  Sentencing will take place in approximately 90 days.

The Ronald Benton Conviction

Ronald Benton was indicted on December 12, 2018, for possessing a firearm after being convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.  He entered a guilty plea on March 11, 2019.  On August 22, 2019, however, the court allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea because of a new U.S. Supreme Court case that held that the government must prove the defendant knew the status that made his gun possession a federal crime.  On September 3, a grand jury returned a superseding indictment that added the allegation that Benton made a false statement on Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (“ATF”) Form 4473 when he purchased a 9mm pistol in Lawton in May 2018 and stated he had never been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

A jury heard the evidence against Benton on October 8, 2019.  In particular, it heard that Benton had been convicted of misdemeanor battery against his spouse in New Mexico in 2007.  The evidence showed the ATF contacted him after his May 2018 firearm purchase to inform him he was not allowed to possess a firearm.  The ATF executed a search warrant at his home in Temple, Oklahoma, on June 15, 2018, and found the pistol and ammunition in his bedroom.

Benton was convicted unanimously on October 9 on the gun crime.  The jury acquitted him of lying to purchase the weapon.  He faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.  Sentencing will take place in approximately 90 days. 

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The Hill conviction is the result of an investigation by the Oklahoma City Police Department and the ATF, with assistance from FBI-Oklahoma City Division.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacquelyn M. Hutzell and Matthew P. Anderson.  The Benton conviction is the result of an investigation by the ATF.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wilson D. McGarry and Jason M. Harley.

“Operation 922” is the local implementation of the national PSN initiative in the Western District of Oklahoma.  Rather than focusing on prosecutions coming from a geographic area, “Operation 922” prioritizes prosecutions on a subject matter plaguing Oklahoma: domestic violence.  As part of this initiative, federal prosecutors focus on enforcing 18 U.S.C. § 922, which precludes specific individuals—including not only felons, but also domestic-violence abusers who are subject to a victim protective order or who have been previously convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence—from possessing firearms or ammunition.  In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutes domestic abuse in Indian Country, including assaults, batteries, strangulations, and homicides.

Reference is made to public filings for further information.

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