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Brookline man who assembled rapid-fire handguns as a hobby gets 3 1/2 years in federal prison

Clips that converted guns into automatic weapons

Clips on Silvestri's guns that converted them to fire bursts of bullets from a single trigger pull. Photos by ATF.

A federal judge yesterday sentenced Stewart Silvestri, 24, to 42 months in federal prison following his guilty plea to one count of unlawful possession of machine guns for the guns, ammunition and drugs he admitted State Police found in his car at a deserted truck-weighing station near the New Hampshire line, where he'd pulled in to try to sleep off some of the drugs he'd taken.

US District Court Judge Denise Casper's sentence was that recommended by Silvestri's attorneys. Prosecutors had asked for 70 months.

Both sides said they hoped Silvestri would enroll in a prison drug-treatment program to help him begin to finally beat the addictions he's had since childhood and which continued to control him even after a two-year stint in a private drug-treatment program in Utah that included spending 78 days in the wilderness there.

Silvestri pleaded guilty in July to the federal count.

In a sentencing recommendation, prosecutors acknowledged Silvestri had never used any of the guns he built - since he couldn't buy guns due to his drug abuse - to commit crimes, but said his addictions and mental-health problems could easily lead him to either using the weapons in a fit of anger or to sell them to pay for drugs:

The government does not suggest that the defendant had evil or malicious intent to use these weapons. Yet, the defendant was manufacturing and designing dangerous and deadly weapons. Only the slightest hint of negligence is needed to convert his "hobby" into a tragedy. ...

[T]he defendant's mental health history is one factor that increases the risk of danger to the community when he possessed these machineguns. A significant sentence of imprisonment will afford the defendant an opportunity to obtain mental health and correctional treatment away from the temptations of re-engaging with his fascination with firearms.

Prosecutors said that was just too much of a risk in a state that has already had problems with the havoc wreaked by automatic weapons - they pointed to a series of shootings on Blue Hill Avenue in August as an example.

A significant sentence of imprisonment will afford the defendant an opportunity to obtain mental health and correctional treatment away from the temptations of re-engaging with his fascination with firearms.

Silvestri's attorneys, however, said that Silvestri fully realizes he needs to pay - through prison time - for his crime and get help, and that a lesser sentence would be more than enough to get him on the right path.

Unlike many the sentencing recommendations in many criminal cases, his attorneys did not say he was the product of a broken home - on the contrary, he grew up in a loving home, with his father a real-estate agent and his mother a radiologist and two sisters who love him, a household that would take regular skiing trips up to Cannon Mountain. But from childhood, he suffered from ADD, depression and anxiety, and that drove him to substance abuse, staring with alcohol and leading ultimately to heroin, they wrote.

Still, even through his struggles with addiction and mental-health problems, one thing remained constant: His love of engineering and desire to figure out how things worked, they said.

As Mr. Silvestri grew older, his fascination with all things engineering evolved. He became enamored with building bow and arrows, buying airsoft guns, taking the guns apart, rebuilding them to make them shoot faster and more accurately, etc. As Mr. Silvestri continued to struggle with his substance abuse, his mind for engineering turned towards a fascination with firearms and the mechanical workings of firearms. Despite this recent fascination with firearms though, Mr. Silvestri has never shown signs of violence, and those in his support network vow that he is not a violent person.

Mr. Silvestri admitted to the unlawful possession of two machineguns. However, Mr. Silvestri's offense was not the product of any malicious conduct. He has no history of violence. Instead, his offense is better described as the product of his keen mind for engineering and the mechanics of firearms, coupled with poor decision-making while struggling with a years-long battle with mental health and substance abuse issues. ...

Mr. Silvestri recognizes the increased dangerousness of possessing firearms while under the influence of drugs. The scenario Mr. Silvestri was involved in mitigates many of the concerns proscribing unlawful possession of firearms while possessing a controlled substance. Mr. Silvestri did not use firearms to procure controlled substances, nor were firearms used for any type of threatening conduct or violence related to his possession of controlled substances.



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But wtf do criminals with illegal firearms keep getting off with lighter sentences?

Voting closed 26

I, too, thinks that the guy in question here deserves to serve 3.5 years in prison. There are far too many guns that are manufactured here in the USA. Moreover, far too many people who really should not have access to firearms in the first place end up getting access to them anyway, thanks to the fact that our gun laws are too lax in many parts of the USA.

Voting closed 6

Christ, doesn't anyone in the government listen to Skynyrd? It's a (expletive) handgun. This gun dipshit made these for killing humans. These objects have literally no functionality otherwise.

Voting closed 23

If he was in Massachusetts can the Feds tack on the mandatory one year sentence for unlawful possession of a firearm required in MA making his sentence 4.5 years or does that only apply in State court?

Voting closed 6