Court asked to review decision
HOLLIDAYSBURG – The Pennsylvania Superior Court has been asked to review a recent decision by a Blair County judge that refused to drop charges against a woman who allegedly made a “straw purchase” of a gun used to kill three Blair County residents 13 months ago.
Brenda Elaine Shultz, 52, of Frankstown Township is accused by state police of buying a handgun at a Hollidaysburg gun shop on Jan. 29, 2011, for her boyfriend because she thought he wasn’t eligible to own a gun.
The boyfriend, Jeffrey Lee Michael used the gun in a in December 2012 shooting rampage that resulted in the deaths of three local residents , Kenneth Lynn, 60, Lynn’s son-in-law William H. Rhodes Jr., 38, and Kimberly Scott, 58.
State police responding to the shootings killed Michael in a gun battle. The three troopers involved were injured.
Police filed charges against Shultz for making materially false statements on state and federal forms that indicated she would be the owner.
Shultz’s attorney, Lucas Kelleher of Altoona, maintains that the facts as they emerged showed that Michael was eligible to own a gun and Shultz’s affirmation that she was to be the owner of the gun was not a “materially false statement.”
Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle on Dec. 10 rejected the argument and avoided language in her ruling that would allow Kelleher to appeal her decision to the Superior Court prior to Shultz’s trial.
Kelleher has now filed a petition asking the Superior Court to take the case anyway because, he explained, the U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear a similar case that could have implications for Shultz.
The question before the Supreme Court is whether “a gun buyer’s intent to sell/transfer a firearm to another lawful buyer in the future is a fact ‘material to the lawfulness of the sale’ of the firearm [under federal law].”
Kelleher stated in his petition that the Fourth, Sixth and Eleventh Circuit courts of appeal and the Fifth and Ninth Circuit courts of appeal have issued rulings both ways.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case next week.
Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio argued before Doyle that state law was clear and that under the law Shultz had made a materially false statement in saying she was to be the owner of the gun.
Doyle in her December opinion stated, “In this case, there is evidence that [Shultz] was not the actual purchaser of a firearm used in a multiple homicide despite the fact that she indicated on both a federal and state form she was.
“There is also evidence that the defendant agreed to purchase the gun for Mr. Michael under the mistaken belief that he was not legally permitted to do so himself.
“This is the specific kind of behavior [state law] seeks to deter,” Doyle wrote.