Citing evidence that three American defendants were tortured, a judge today gave them unusually light sentences for possessing 43 handguns and rifles and trying to smuggle guns aboard a plane.
High Court Judge Ismael Adam imposed concurrent sentences of six months for possessing weapons and 21 months for taking dangerous materials aboard an airliner on defendants Gary Blanchard, 36; John Lamonte Dixon, 36; and Joseph Wendell Pettijohn, 35.
Adam credited them with time served after their arrest March 7. With time off for good behavior, the three could be out in November.
They could have been sentenced to life in prison. Adam said prosecutors' failure to rebut evidence that the three had been tortured constituted "special circumstances" for not imposing more severe sentences.
The three men, who were member of the Indiana-based Harvestfield Ministries Pentecostal Church, testified that they had brought the weapons to their mission in the Congo for self-defense and hunting and wanted to take them back to the United States.