Breckenridge Texan

Breckenridge resident sentenced to 8 years in federal prison for weapons violation

September 04
18:48 2018

A Breckenridge resident who was arrested by the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office more than a year ago was sentenced last month to more than eight years in a federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

Bryce Clark

After initially being caught by the SCSO with a gun and ammunition during a traffic stop in August 2017, Bryce Clair Clark, age 31, was eventually indicted by a grand jury on three counts for the crime involving a variety of guns. But, he made a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas. The arrangement allowed for Clark to plead guilty to only one of the counts, while the government agreed to dismiss any additional, pending charges in the indictment.

According to information from Stephens County Sheriff Will Holt, Clark is a convicted felon, originally from Kansas, with “a serious and diverse criminal history that includes assault, burglary, drugs, and other offenses.”

He moved to Breckenridge several years and worked here as a mechanic. Clark had no known family ties to Breckenridge before moving here, Holt said.

According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern Texas – Abilene Division, Clark was initially stopped by a SCSO deputy on Aug. 11, 2017, for driving a 1997 Dodge Ram pickup without wearing a seatbelt and for not using a signal when making a lane change. He consented to a search of the vehicle, and the deputy found a .38 caliber revolver and ammunition.

Since he is a convicted felon, Clark is not allowed to have any type of gun. He was arrested at that time and later was released on bond.

Clark was known to local law enforcement through calls for service to the Sheriff’s Office and through law enforcement intelligence, Holt said. He had previous arrests, in Kansas, Texas and elsewhere, for a variety of charges, including domestic violence, possession of meth and other drugs, destruction of property, burglary of a home, making criminal threats, criminal use of weapons and more.

Holt reported that after the Aug. 11, 2017, arrest, the Sheriff’s Office acquired information that Clark had two separate stashes of firearms and ammunition that he was regularly trying to increase through illegal or secretive methods. One of the hidden areas was at his workplace in his toolbox.

The SCSO contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to see if they had an interest in the case, as well as a dog trained in detecting firearms, ammunition, and their components.

“Based off his lengthy criminal history up in Kansas and elsewhere, and then him getting on our radar due to calls for service and other law enforcement intelligence, we were uncomfortable not pursuing that as quickly as we could,” Holt said.

The ATF was interested in the case and brought a K9 unit to Stephens County. The ATF Agent handler and dog alerted on Clark’s locked toolbox at his workplace.

The Sheriff’s Office obtained a search warrant, and on Aug. 22, 2017, the toolbox was searched. Seized from the toolbox were a sawed-off shotgun with a length that was in violation of state law minimum requirements, an AK-47 rifle, a .22 rifle, and a revolver. Approximately 1,000 rounds of ammunition were also in the toolbox, including six 30-round magazines for the AK-47, all of which were loaded.

Clark was arrested by the Sheriff’s Office the following morning, Aug. 23, 2017, after he left his house.

The SCSO was then able to also obtain the following firearms from Clark’s bedroom: a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, a 9 mm rifle, a .243 rifle, and an AR-15 styled rifle. More ammunition was also seized.

Holt said that all of the weapons, except for the shotgun, are legal firearms in Texas; it was Clark’s convicted felon status that made the possession illegal. The sheriff said an AK-47 that is semi-automatic is legal, as long as it’s over the minimum length and not fully automatic, similar to an AR-15. He said the local law enforcement officers turned the weapons over to the ATF and did not test the AK-47 to determine if it was automatic or semi-automatic.

After the second arrest, Clark stayed in jail until he was picked up by the federal marshals several months later. They transferred him to a federal holding facility.

Holt said in a written statement that he chose to work with the ATF to file the case federally for two main reasons. First, prison time handed down on the federal level for such cases means that the person will serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, and it is common for them to serve all of their penalized time, he said.

Offenders convicted of state prison time in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice regularly only serve a small fraction of their time, Holt stated.

“One-tenth (1/lOth) to one-twentieth (l/20th) of a prescribed (TDCJ) sentence is often all that is ever served,” the sheriff said in the statement.  “Second, the Sheriff’s Office wants to send a message to the community, specifically habitual offenders who involve themselves with firearms, that every state and federal resource will be used to prevent the community from being exposed to such deviant behavior. The criminal element needs to know that it is not just local law enforcement currently investigating and apprehending them.”

In March of this year, Clark signed the plea agreement. The maximum number of years that Clark could have received from his federal conviction was 10 years. On Aug. 24, 2018, Senior District Judge Sam R. Cummings of the U.S. District Court sentenced Clark to 97 months – eight years and one month. He will be on federal probation for three years after his prison release.

According to Holt, this is the second case from 2017 that the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office worked with the ATF to convict felons who continued to possess firearms and involve themselves in illegal transactions that included firearms.

“I’m personally proud of it, and I’m proud of it as the sheriff,” Holt said about the case.


Story by Tony Pilkington and Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

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