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Southwest Mississippi man convicted of passing firearms to Chicago

NATCHEZ — A Natchez man was convicted Wednesday of funneling guns to Chicago, where the firearms were allegedly used in gang violence.

Jonathan Smalley pleaded guilty to two charges of unlawful transportation and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after allegedly delivering approximately 25 firearms to Chicago, at least six of which were used in shootings in Chicago, court records indicate.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman sentenced Smalley to serve 64 months, or more than five years, in federal prison.

Prosecutors said Smalley purchased the firearms from licensed stores in Natchez and that most of the guns were sold to family members in Chicago, some of whom were convicted felons.

Special agents with the Chicago division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms wrote in their report that Smalley purchased 32 firearms between May 18, 2009, and May 12, 2016. Because some of these weapons were purchased after Smalley sustained a felony conviction in Louisiana in 2015, Smalley was also convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The prosecutors’ original complaint states that each purchase of a firearm was recorded by sellers with a Federal Firearms License, and that all licensed firearm salesman are required to record the date-of-birth, name, address and firearm purchased during any sale. These identification records led investigators to Smalley as the provider of guns in several criminal actions in Chicago.

Investigators said Smalley delivered at least 25 of those weapons to Chicago, and that law enforcement officers had recovered 16 of them.

Investigators said Smalley was in Chicago delivering firearms at the time of his arrest on May 13, 2016.

In a memorandum compiled by the United States’ Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Illinois, prosecutors say Smalley, “knew that many, if not all, of the firearms he sent to Chicago would be illegally possessed or used to commit crimes.

“Defendant knowingly provided fuel for the violence that plagues Chicago.”

Prosecutors said Smalley knew of the criminal nature of some of the people he sold guns to in part because of a series of texts between Smalley and his brother.

In one exchange uncovered in the ATF investigation, Smalley’s brother said: “OK and I shot somebody he ain’t dead doe.”

Smalley replied: “Don’t text it. Call me later.”

Attorneys for his defense argued that Smalley did not comprehend the serious and far-reaching effects of his actions, and that he sold guns to his family members for their protection.

The Chicago Tribune reports, however, that Gettleman told Smalley that selling a gun capable of shooting 30 rounds in succession is “not for self-protection.”

In the two years since his initial arrest, defense attorneys said Smalley “has had a chance to think critically about his conduct, and gain a greater understanding of the dangers associated with selling firearms without a license. While he never meant to harm anyone, it distresses him greatly to know that his actions may have contributed to the violence that plagues Chicago.”

Prosecutors said Smalley, “provided guns to people in Chicago who could not legally purchase them on their own. Those guns were then used in entirely predictable ways, turning up at crime scenes and being seized by law enforcement officers across the Chicago area.”