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Weapons Trial Begins for Angels Businessman

By Craig Koscho

Jury trial began Thursday morning for Angels Camp businessman Richard Wilmshurst, who is charged with owning automatic and semi-automatic weapons in violation of state law.

The weapons were found during a Feb. 12, 2003, search of a two-story outbuilding on Wilmshurst´s private property.

The building contained a storage room, apartment, and a legal office for Wilmshurst, the 68-year-old co-owner of 49er Subaru.

Officers from the state Department of Justice initiated the search after Lori Morell, an inspector with the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, conducted a January inspection of Wilmshurst´s weapon inventory as part of his federal importer´s license.

The Feb. 12 search turned up a German MP 40 automatic machine gun found under the bed in the building´s living quarters, said Ignatius Chinn, a special agents supervisor from the Department of Justice.

The jury was shown a videotape of Chinn test-firing the weapon at a California Highway Patrol firing range in West Sacramento.

“It operates flawlessly,” Chinn told the jury.

Another semi-automatic weapon was discovered in a footlocker. Other weapons were found throughout the premises.

While the weapons are prohibited under state law, Wilmshurst and defense attorney Thomas Marovich have maintained that the federal import license supercedes any state laws.

State Deputy Attorney General Aaron Maguire, who is prosecuting the case, told jurors during opening arguments that the bearer must still abide by state and local laws, and that warning is even stamped on the federal license.

Chinn testified that, during the search, Wilmshurst made conflicting statements about the history of the machine gun.

Wilmshurst was told he could leave if he wanted, but chose to stay during the search and was allowed to sit behind his upstairs desk after that immediate area had been secured.

While Wilmshurst was being accompanied downstairs to get a drink of water, Chinn asked him where he got the machine gun, and the defendant said it was a long time ago from a friend who had since died.

A few minutes later Wilmshurst said, without prompting, there would be no problem with the machine gun since the friend who gave it to him could bring the paperwork and clear up the matter, Chinn testified.

Chinn told jurors he reminded Wilmshurst that a short time ago he had said the previous owner was dead.

Wilmshurst did not respond to that and went back upstairs, Chinn said.

Marovich reserved his opening remarks until after the prosecution had presented its case.

The trial was scheduled to continue today.

Officers initially served Wilmshurst with the search warrant at his car dealership, Chinn said.

When they went to his private property, Wilmshurst rode with Chinn but was not handcuffed.

An ambulance from American Medical Response also accompanied the agents because Wilmshurst had told Morell at the time of her inspection that he was not in good health.

Contact Craig Koscho at ckoscho@calaverasenterprise.com.

Reprinted with kind permission from The Calaveras Enterprise