Chester Lee Hickman Jr., 53, of Pamplin, was sentenced to serve three years with another two years suspended on a felony charge of possession of firearms by a violent felon.

Court records show that Hickman was arrested Jan. 26, 2018.

According to evidence summarized April 11 in Appomattox County Circuit Court, officials from the Virginian Department of Game and Inland Fisheries discovered that Hickman was trapping wild game out of season on his property. He was caught on site with a muzzleloader.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Kia Scott described the scene Thursday as officers attempted to apprehend Hickman in January. While Hickman was on the ATV, officers commanded him to raise his hands. Hickman, who was holding a beer, initially complied but then lowered one hand. He raised the lowered hand when officers threatened to open fire, a threat brought on by the presence of the muzzleloader on the ATV.

At the Sept. 26 sentencing hearing, Hickman testified to carrying the muzzleloader on his ATV because he noticed a trespasser on cameras set up at his 24-acre rural property. Hickman said he had reported the trespasser to police but the person was unable to be identified. The trespasser had left the gate open several times, according to Hickman. 

In addition to the muzzleloader, a camper on Hickman’s property was found to contain multiple long rifles, pistols and boxes of ammunition. Hickman explained that the items belonged to his father, who had the camper moved to his property because of health issues but forgot to remove the firearms.

Hickman said he went into the camper once to get the muzzleloader but was unaware of the presence of other firearms. He said he used a legal crossbow for the purpose of hunting.

Scott questioned Hickman’s claim to only going into the camper one time and not having knowledge of the firearms that he previously helped his father load into the camper. Hickman was prevented from possessing or using firearms due to a prior malicious wounding conviction.

Hickman said he bought the muzzleloader after searching gun laws online and believed a muzzleloader (black powder firearm) purchase was legal for him since the conviction was more than 10 years old.

However, Scott later explained that gun rights are not automatically restored after the 10-year period, and that laws vary for violent and nonviolent offenders.

Prior to sentencing, Scott argued that Hickman’s actions in carrying a firearm while searching for a trespasser were “dangerous” and that he was “locked and loaded that day” while showing “no regard for the Commonwealth” as indicated by a lengthy criminal history. 

Attorney Carter Garrett, representing Hickman, said his client, a lifelong hunter, saw the situation differently and got misinformation about the gun laws. Garrett also pointed out that Hickman has had no probation violations since being on terms of house arrest. 

Appomattox County Circuit Court Judge S. Anderson Nelson settled on a three-year sentence, which was down the middle of the two years the defense asked for and the four years sought by the prosecution. 

Two years of suspended time were added with conditions of five years good behavior and two years supervised probation upon release.

On behalf of Hickman, Garrett requested that time served on house arrest be applied to the sentence, but the request was denied by Judge Nelson.

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