A federal judge sentenced former Taneytown Police Chief William E. Tyler to a year and a day in prison, lamenting his “fall from grace” over a scheme to illegally possess and transfer a machine gun that belonged to his department.
Tyler, 56, who pleaded guilty last year, will also serve three years of supervised release once he is out of prison, U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander said.
“I was a law enforcement officer for over half of my life and with all the good I have done over the course of my career, I ended it with disgrace,” an emotional Tyler told Hollander.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Hines said the case began with a citizen tip to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that Tyler and another officer had taken two machine guns from the police department and were using them for their own purposes.
Federal agents carried out search warrants at the police department and the homes of Tyler and the other officer, and recovered two .223 caliber Ruger KAC556 model machine guns.
Hines said agents located two bills of sale signed by Tyler that said he had purchased the weapons for $100. Hines said there was no corroboration that such a sale had occurred, and, if it had, it should have been registered with the ATF but was not.
Tyler lied to the FBI, saying he did not know the weapons were automatic and that he had never used them or seen anyone use them. Agents found spent casings and located witnesses who saw Tyler and the officer firing them at a range.
Hines said such weapons go for $10,000 on the black market, and pose a threat to the community if “in the hands of the wrong person.”
The charge brought a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and sentencing guidelines called for Tyler to receive a sentence of between 18 and 24 months. Hines asked for a year and a day, the extra day allowing Tyler to accrue good time credits not available to defendants who serve a year or less.
Tyler served as a Taneytown police officer for 25 years, including the last 15 as its chief. The small town of about 7,000 people in Carroll County has a police department that typically employs between 12 to 15 officers.
Tyler’s attorney, Robert Biddle, said his client recognized that he would have to serve time but asked that his sentence be served on weekends, or a month of incarceration followed by additional weekends.
He cited undisclosed family concerns, and pleaded that Tyler be able to work and support his family.
Hollander said the weapon Tyler took home was “as lethal as they come,” but that his case was more about a breach of public trust.
“If we can’t count on the chief, how could we expect others to follow suit?” she said.
Hollander was sent more than a dozen letters of support on behalf of Tyler, many of them from people he had interacted with as a youth football coach. Parents and current and former players praised his character and the support he gave to his athletes.
In a letter to the court, Tyler lamented that he would live with regret “as I wake up in the morning as a felon and each night as I go to bed as a felon” and that he would no longer be able to coach high school football.