Man shoots self, gets 33 months

Posted April 14, 2009, at 10:03 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Two men have been sentenced over the past week to federal prison on gun charges.

A Winslow man who accidentally shot himself in the leg with a stolen gun more than four years ago was sentenced in U.S. District Court on April 8 to 33 months for violating firearm laws.

Dennis L. Whitman, 26, also was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Woodcock to three years of supervised released after he completes his sentence.

Whitman pleaded guilty in January to possession of a stolen gun and possession of a gun after being convicted of a crime of domestic violence.

He was charged after Winslow police were called on Aug. 26, 2004, to MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Thayer unit in Waterville to investigate an accidental shooting. Whitman, according to court documents, accidentally shot himself with a .22-caliber handgun that was tucked into his waistband when he was helping a friend move furniture into an apartment.

Whitman told police that he had wrapped the gun in a blue towel and given it to the friend he had been with when he was shot and told him to get rid of it because it was stolen. When interviewed, Whitman’s friend said he had taken the gun to the Waterville-Winslow bridge and thrown it into the Kennebec River.

A Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department dive team found the gun, according to court documents. By tracing the serial number, police confirmed that it had been reported stolen on Aug. 19, 2004, from a Searsport home.

Whitman admitted that he knew the gun had been stolen but refused to tell police who had given it to him.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2007 and arrested the next month. He pleaded guilty to the charges in December.

He faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, he faced between 33 and 41 months in prison.

Whitman has been held without bail since October 2007. He will receive credit for time served while waiting for his case to be resolved.

Information on why it took so long for him to be charged in federal court was not available Wednesday.

In an unrelated case, a Franklin County man with an extensive criminal history was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Bangor to 15 years and eight months in prison for being a felon in possession of firearms.

Melvin Vitko, 51, whose residences in court documents are listed as Milford, N.H, Florida and Franklin County, Maine, also was sentenced to five years of supervised release after completing his sentence.

Vitko was stopped on Feb. 20, 2008, driving a truck in Franklin County that had been reported stolen by the owner in Naples, Fla., according to court documents. Inside, a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy found two of five guns reported stolen 18 days earlier from a camp in Oxford County.

Vitko was indicted by a federal grand jury in September and pleaded guilty to the charge in November.

Because Vitko’s criminal record in Florida dates back to 1975 and includes three convictions for violent felonies, he was classified under the federal sentencing guidelines as an armed career criminal. He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life and a fine of up to $250,000.

Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, he faced between 188 and 235 months in prison.

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