A Tacoma, Wash., man who bought a high-powered rifle for sniper John Allen Muhammad in 2001, but who claimed it was for himself, has pleaded guilty in federal court in Tacoma to making a false statement while acquiring a firearm.
The $800 rifle that Earl L. Dancy Jr., 36, bought in November 2001 was not the gun that Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo used to shoot 13 people, 10 fatally, in the Washington region in fall 2002. But during Muhammad's capital murder trial in 2003, Dancy admitted purchasing a .308-caliber Remington rifle for Muhammad, who was prohibited from having a gun after his wife obtained a restraining order against him.
Prosecutors called Dancy as a witness during the sentencing phase of Muhammad's trial in Virginia Beach, after a jury convicted him of capital murder and was trying to decide whether to recommend a death sentence. The government was trying to show that Muhammad might have intended to kill more people outside the Washington area.
The rifle that Dancy bought was discovered perched on a bipod in a Tacoma woods Aug. 17, 2002, and witnesses testified that it was loaded and aimed at a nearby apartment building. Muhammad then told Dancy to report the weapon stolen.
Malvo and Muhammad later shoplifted another rifle -- a .223-caliber Bushmaster -- from the same Tacoma gun store where Dancy bought the Remington and used it for their killing rampage.
Muhammad, 44, was sentenced to death on charges of terrorism and committing multiple murders. His appeal is pending before the Virginia Supreme Court. Malvo, 20, was convicted of the same charges in a separate trial in Chesapeake, Va., and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Dancy knew that buying a gun for Muhammad was illegal and acknowledged at Muhammad's trial that he initially lied to investigators that he had done it. When he made the purchase at Bull's Eye Shooter Supply in Tacoma, Dancy was required to fill out a federal firearms form that asked, "Are you the actual buyer of the firearm indicated on this form?"
Dancy wrote yes. Muhammad actually had picked out the gun in a trip to the store and was waiting in a van outside while Dancy arranged the purchase, according to court documents filed Thursday during Dancy's plea hearing.
Dancy then took the receipt outside and handed it to Muhammad. Several days later, Dancy went back and picked up the rifle and delivered it to Muhammad, his plea agreement states.
Although the false-statement charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Seattle could not say yesterday whether Dancy faces incarceration. His sentencing is set for June 24.