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Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Friday, July 26, 2013
Gun buyer gets 4 years

A Big Pine Key man who bought a stolen Monroe County Sheriff's Office SWAT assault rifle from a teen burglar will spend nearly four years in federal prison as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez on July 18 sentenced Steven W. McClelland, 33, to 46 months in prison followed by three years' supervised release as well as $100 in fines, according to court records.

McClelland was indicted Nov. 15 on charges of possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon; possessing a stolen firearm and ammunition; and possessing an automatic weapon.

He had faced 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. McClelland has a Monroe County arrest record dating to 1997 that includes convictions for dealing in stolen property, grand theft, battery, unlawful taking of a Key deer, possession of marijuana and traffic offenses.

McClelland traded prescription painkiller pills for a M4 automatic assault rifle as well as 160 rounds of .223-caliber ammunition from Kalvin Cowger, then 17 years old.

The military-style rifle is a shorter version of the M16, but fires the same bullets as its larger cousin. It is the favored rifle of many Special Operations Forces troops and tactical police teams.

Cowger broke into SWAT member Sgt. Ken Fricke's patrol car in September and stole the M4 automatic assault rifle, two handguns, ammunition and assorted tactical gear -- all of which was recovered.

He was charged with second-degree felony possession of stolen property and theft and is scheduled to be sentenced before county Judge Wayne Miller today. Cowger faces a maximum of 30 years in state prison, as he was charged as an adult.

Anthony Ostrander, 27, of Big Pine Key, was also arrested, charged with felony dealing in stolen property and three misdemeanors: driving with a suspended license, having an unassigned tag on a vehicle and possessing drug paraphernalia.

Circuit Judge Mark Jones sentenced Ostrander to a year of pretrial diversion on April 22. The special probationary-style program means Ostrander has to attend behavioral modification classes, put in 100 hours of community service and pay $538 in court costs, said Assistant State Attorney Val Winter.

"We didn't see Ostrander's culpability to be nearly as high as Cowger's in this case," Winter said.

Neither Cowger nor Ostrander were charged federally, like McClelland was.

Fricke was suspended from work for 14 days and suspended from the SWAT team for six months stemming from an internal affairs investigation following the incident. The IA found that Fricke's patrol car was unlocked, Sheriff Rick Ramsay said in December.

Fricke is not currently on the SWAT team, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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