The sentence Christopher G. Nichols received was extreme because the gun was later used in a murder. But Nichols, who had nothing to do with the murder, received 100 years more than the killers got.
Yesterday, Nichols, 27, appeared before Superior Court Judge Pat Monasmith for sentencing. He had previously been convicted by a Stevens County jury of 21 charges including theft of a gun, trafficking in stolen property, and being a felon found in possession of a firearm.
Under Washington's "Hard Times for Armed Crimes" law that came into effect in 1995, all sentences for gun crimes must run consecutively. As a result of the law, the sentences for the 21 different crimes Nichols was convicted of totaled 125 years. In justifying the sentence, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen was quoted in the Sportsman-Review as saying, "The law has been upheld many times in appellate court. It represents a decision by the Legislature to strike at the root of violent crime."
As CBS reports, the events that led up to yesterday's sentencing began on June 28, 2011. Nichols and Eric Booth, 26, broke into a Coville residence and stole a safe containing several firearms. That was the extent of Nichols' involvement.
The next month, Booth teamed up with Jesse Fellman-Shimmin and Collette Pierce. They decided to burglarize the home of Gordon Feist, 63. Feist was a former Navy Seal who had done three tours of duty in Vietnam.
The three pretended they had run out of gas and Feist offered to drive them. While in the car, Booth shot Feist in the head, killing him. The gun Booth used was one of the firearms he and Nichols obtained in the break-in the month before.
Nichols and the others were all arrested. Booth, Fellman-Shimmin, and Pierce all entered into plea agreements with prosecutors. Although Nichols was offered a sentence in the range of 25 years in exchange for a guilty plea, he refused and went to trial.
The Washington Post reports Booth pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 26 1/2 years in prison. Fellman-Shimmin and Pierce both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were sentenced to 25 years and 15 years respectively. As part of the plea agreements, the others agreed to testify against Nichols.
Rasmussen was quoted in the Post as saying he believes Nichols got one of the longest sentences ever handed out in a non-murder case. He said, "Without the burglary of these firearms, this killing would not have occurred."