May 14, 2012 10:28:48 AM
STARKVILLE - District Attorney Forrest Allgood said the decision to prosecute former Mississippi State University student Jeffrey Hill for possession of a weapon by a student on educational property should not be perceived as an "anti-gun" prosecution.
Hill, 42, was convicted in circuit court in April on the charges and was sentenced to three years in prison and fined $1,200. A previous trial on the charge, also argued by Allgood, resulted in a hung jury.
"I am a firm believer in the Second Amendment, and I'm a life-long member of the (National Rifle Association)," Allgood said. "I know we have a lot of students who are deer hunters. But let's face it: With the situation we've seen on college campuses in recent years, we have to take this serious."
Allgood said he presented the same case he had presented in the previous trial, when the jury could not reach a verdict.
"It just goes to show that every jury is different," Allgood said. "The proof was pretty much the same."
Hill, who represented himself in the trial, was arrested in September of 2010 at his Aikin Village apartment by MSU police acting on a tip.
Allgood said several aspects of Hill's case made it clear it was not simply a matter of a student who happened to have a deer rifle in his apartment.
"The rifle was a Russian model, the same that the Soviet military uses," Allgood said. "But one of the big eye-openers is that he had 440 rounds of ammunition. That's far more than the typical hunter would have in his possession."
Another factor, Allgood said, was some connection between Hill and the Sovereign Citizen Movement, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation identifies as an "anti-government extremist" group linked to murder and assaults, among other crimes."
Allgood said Hill denied being associated with the group.
"It was up to the jury as to whether they believe him or not," Allgood said. "I think this jury just saw things a little differently than the first one,.
"The bottom line is that we don't live in a vacuum," he added. "The events of our recent history shows that his situation was one that we had to be concerned about. This was not just a turkey hunter with a shotgun in his trunk."