After serving more than six months in jail, a Phoenix man caught driving a stolen U-Haul truck loaded with stolen goods in the Cody area has been placed on the federal government’s equivalent …
After serving more than six months in jail, a Phoenix man caught driving a stolen U-Haul truck loaded with stolen goods in the Cody area has been placed on the federal government’s equivalent to supervised probation.
At a sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court this month, Austin J. Kelly, 25, was credited for the 191 days he’d served in jail and ordered to begin serving three years of supervised release for possessing a stolen firearm.
Kelly was pulled over by a trooper with the Wyoming Highway Patrol on Feb. 27, north of Cody. Inside the rental truck, authorities found items that included methamphetamine and marijuana, clothing, tools and jewelry that still had price tags attached, dozens of Viagra pills, 100 unopened tins of chewing tobacco, counterfeit World Series rings and a credit card stolen from a man in the Phoenix area. A Park County prosecutor said earlier this year that authorities suspected the items “were from numerous smash and grabs from numerous states.”
But it was a handgun, stolen from a woman in Montana, that landed him in real trouble.
The Park County Attorney’s Office initially charged Kelly with multiple crimes. However, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office opted to take over the case in May.
Kelly and his defense attorneys attempted to suppress the evidence against him, arguing the trooper lacked probable cause to make a traffic stop, but he eventually agreed to plead guilty to possessing the stolen gun. A second count of possessing a firearm while a convicted felon was dismissed under the deal.
On Sept. 5, U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl of Casper approved a sentence of time served, followed by the three years of supervised release.
As the charges indicated, it was not Kelly’s first brush with the law; at a court appearance in state court in March, then-Deputy Park County Attorney Leda Pojman said Kelly’s record included convictions for burglary, theft and “numerous” misdemeanor drug offenses.
Federal prosecutors indicated that he remains on some form of probation for a prior felony offense in Arizona and Judge Skavdahl ordered Kelly to “resolve all outstanding warrants within 60 days.”
Mark Trimble, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the deal for no additional prison time was accepted because Kelly’s past felony case in Arizona may go away; Kelly’s conviction in Arizona, Trimble said, is contingent on whether Kelly successfully completes probation and other factors.
“Our sentencing guidelines are for convictions that stand, not ones that can be modified or reduced later for ‘good behavior,’” Trimble said. “The State of Arizona didn’t do us any favors with the sentences they handed him in the past.”
Kelly likely would have passed through Park County without any trouble on Feb. 27, but he slid into a snowbank alongside Wyo. Highway 120.
A Wyoming Department of Transportation snowplow driver spotted Kelly, spoke with him and radioed dispatch that a trooper or wrecker would need to help get the U-Haul out of the snow.
When Trooper Rich Scovel arrived in the area, Kelly appeared to have just gotten back on the road. With the hood and grill noticeably damaged and the rear license plate covered by snow, Scovel stopped the truck.
Kelly said the damage was pre-existing, charging documents in the case say, but the rental agreement for the truck didn’t list it.
Scovel’s suspicions only rose from there, as the trooper smelled marijuana in the truck and learned that Kelly didn’t have a valid driver’s license — and that the U-Haul had been reported as stolen. In Kelly’s pockets, Scovel would find pills of Lorazepam that had been prescribed to someone else, brass knuckles and apparently stolen jewelry.
A search followed in which authorities found numerous items, including a Remington RP9 handgun that Kelly had stolen from a woman he’d stayed with in Anaconda, Montana; the gun belonged to the woman’s late husband, whose driver’s license was found in Kelly’s wallet. Meanwhile, three of the woman’s necklaces and two rings — including one inscribed with her name — were also found in the U-Haul.
Kelly must begin his time on supervised release at a residential re-entry center, residential substance abuse treatment program, halfway house or sober-living environment. He’s also required to follow a long list of conditions, including participating in cognitive-behavioral, substance abuse and mental health treatment, obeying the law, refraining from alcohol, working a full-time job and submitting to searches by his probation agent.