By Chad Abraham – December 23, 2015
The former Aspen postal worker who had a loaded handgun in a backpack at the local facility hopes that a firearm exception in federal sentencing guidelines will result in a reduced prison term.
Mauro Pennini is to be sentenced Jan. 4 in federal court in Grand Junction after pleading guilty in September to possession of a firearm in violation of a protection order.
While such a conviction comes with a maximum of 10 years in prison, Pennini could receive a sentence of 16 months or less and then will likely be deported, according to his plea agreement.
A Dec. 14 letter from his attorney to the probation officer who will make a sentencing recommendation to Judge Gordon Gallagher of U.S. District Court says that “Mr. Pennini believes the firearm exception applies.”
If a defendant’s possession of ammunition and firearms is “solely for lawful sporting purposes or collection,” U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines consider that to be a mitigating factor.
A man “will confirm that Mr. Pennini was at the Basalt firing range the day before being contacted by law enforcement in this case and mistakenly carried the firearm to his employment,” wrote defense attorney Stephen Laiche of Grand Junction.
As part of the plea deal, the U.S. attorney’s office agreed not to oppose the application of the sporting purposes guideline in exchange for Pennini, a native of Britain, agreeing “not to contest his removability from the United States …”
Pennini was arrested in June after Aspen police went to the post office to question him about an alleged protection order violation. When told he was being taken to jail, he apparently asked officers to retrieve medication from his backpack. An officer discovered a loaded handgun, 40 extra rounds, knives and handcuffs. He also allegedly had an illegal switchblade on his person.
Laiche’s letter says his client disputes several claims in the protection order signed by Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely of Pitkin County Court. In signing the restraining order, the judge cited the arrest warrant issued for Pennini in which the alleged victim said he had boasted of killing 11 people.
“Mr. Pennini repudiates and denies ever having made this statement,” Laiche wrote. “He denies ever telling [the alleged victim] that he had killed anyone and that he was a ‘dangerous person.’”
At the time of the plea deal in September, Pennini’s criminal record had not been established. But the agreement’s calculations — which are based on the crime, his acceptance of responsibility and other factors — at the time placed him in the advisory sentencing category that ranges from no prison time to 16 months. Based on the finalization of his criminal history, Pennini’s possible sentence could be increased to 10 to 33 months.
Pennini still faces local misdemeanor charges of violating a protection order and illegal possession of a weapon. The district attorney’s office has not yet formally charged him with harassment in the case that led to the discovery of the weapons.
A review of the local cases is set for Jan. 5.