Jenkins' attorneys renew argument for release of grand jury minutes, testimony

Sep. 25—Attorneys for Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins reiterated arguments in a federal court filing on Monday that grand jury minutes and witness testimony should be reviewed and released due to what they called inconsistent and potentially misleading comments from prosecutors.

Grand jury proceedings are usually secret, but Jenkins' attorneys said prosecutors may have misrepresented evidence to a grand jury to indict Jenkins.

If the court found evidence of that, it could be grounds for the case to be dismissed, Jenkins' attorneys argued.

"Sheriff Jenkins is justifiably concerned about the 'nature and cause of the accusations' that are being made against him, especially when viewed against the misleading and contradictory statements of the government's indictment and pleadings," the filing said.

Prosecutors opposed Jenkins' initial motion related to the grand jury, saying the defense didn't provide evidence warranting release of the minutes and testimony.

Jenkins was federally indicted in April on five counts of conspiracy and making false statements to illegally obtain machine guns.

Robert Krop, co-owner of the shooting range The Machine Gun Nest, was indicted on the same charges, plus an additional charge of illegal possession of machine guns.

Both men pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Prosecutors allege that between 2015 and 2022, Krop drafted five "law letters" for Jenkins to sign on Frederick County Sheriff's Office letterhead. The letters said the sheriff's office wanted demonstrations of various machine guns.

The letters were sent to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which approves the transfer, possession and importation of post-1986 machine guns for select license holders under a narrow criteria.

Krop's shooting range held such a license.

Prosecutors allege that while the letters asked for demonstrations of the machine guns, they never happened. Krop rented out the machine guns to the public when he received them, they said.

Krop stated in previous court filings that he contacted Jenkins to try to set up demonstrations.

Jenkins' attorneys argued that prosecutors misstated the intent of one law letter by alleging that it was used with Jenkins' intent to purchase a machine gun.

The letter in question, dated October 2015, states that the request for a demonstration shouldn't be construed as a purchase order, the defense attorneys said.

They added that prosecutors omitted the sentence about the letter not being a purchase order in some arguments, which the defense argued raises concerns that prosecutors omitted the passage to the grand jury.

"The government must have told the grand jury, mistakenly as they now admit, that this letter expressed an intent to purchase — when it did not. This is a genuine and specific concern," Monday's filing said.

Prosecutors had no comment on the filing, Bailey Drumm, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office, wrote in an email on Monday.

Jenkins' attorneys, in their motion last month, brought up what they called prosecution misstatements of the letters.

In response, prosecutors said in their opposition that while it's clear from the letters that Jenkins didn't intend to procure the machine guns, "the intent of this letter was for it to be a 'law letter' expressing interest in conducting a demonstration of the machineguns."

Prosecutors in their filing also said arguments from Jenkins' team were based on perception, and that they were providing no facts on how the prosecution was misrepresenting the case.

Andrea Smith, one of Jenkins' attorneys, said Monday afternoon she had no additional comment.

Jenkins' attorneys also said they had concerns about evidence that prosecutors provided to the grand jury if it portrayed Jenkins "willfully and knowingly" committing a conspiracy or if a grand jury reached that conclusion without evidence.

While prosecutors were not legally obligated to provide a factual or detailed timeline that proves knowing and willful participation in a conspiracy in the indictment, they do have to present evidence to support those allegations to the grand jury, defense attorneys said.

However, despite reviewing over 2,000 pages of documents, they were not able to find evidence of that, they said. Prosecutors themselves in court said Jenkins received nothing of value in return for signing the law letters, the defense argued.

"Since the indictment alleges 'knowledge' in each count ... the government must have given the grand jury evidence of knowledge," they said. "If the prosecution skipped over it and hoped no one would notice, that is equally improper and equally flawed."

Both parties must now wait for U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher to rule on this issue.

Last month, Gallagher granted a motion to separate the trials of the two men, despite prosecutors' opposition.

Gallagher still has to rule on Jenkins' appeal that asks the court to modify his conditions of release and allow him to carry his department-issued firearms.

Follow Clara Niel on Twitter: @clarasniel