The Frederick County sheriff accused of conspiring to fraudulently acquire machine guns with a local gun business owner is asking for his federal case to be handled separately from his co-defendant.
In legal filings, attorneys for Sheriff Charles “Chuck” A. Jenkins argue that discovery they’ve reviewed has not shown Jenkins received anything of value for his “supposed role” — in contrast to Robert Justin Krop, a gun business owner, who prosecutors say profited by renting automatic weapons to private citizens.
“There is no material that shows or establishes any financial incentive or fraudulent intent on the part of Sheriff Jenkins,” attorneys wrote in a motion to sever the cases filed this week. “This discrepancy creates inconsistent and conflicting defenses.”
Jenkins, a Republican most recently reelected in 2022, was indicted by a federal grand jury in April and faces criminal charges of conspiracy to interfere with federal regulations on machine guns and making false statements to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, known as the ATF.
Both Jenkins and Krop have pleaded not guilty.
Jenkins, after initially declining to step down, has since announced that he would take a leave of absence through “the end of this judicial process.” A spokesman for the sheriff’s office, Todd Wivell, confirmed Thursday that the agency’s second-in-command, Col. David Benjamin, was leading the office in the meantime.
In a statement released the day of his arraignment, Jenkins said: “I know my innocence will prevail at the end of all of this and that I will be found not guilty.”
His attorneys wrote in court filings that it would be “profoundly unfair” to have a joint trial with Jenkins and Krop, suggesting it was possible Jenkins was “duped” by Krop without knowing his motive.
An attorney for Krop could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Jenkins’ federal indictment accused him of sending fake “law” letters to the ATF to take advantage of an exemption to rules barring possession, transfer or import of machine guns that allows licensed dealers to do so if they’re being used as samples for potential law enforcement or military purchasers. A law letter is required from a law enforcement agency to lay out the machine gun model it is considering.
Prosecutors say the letters said the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office was requesting demonstrations, but that it was actually Krop who asked Jenkins to submit the letters so he could rent them to customers of the Machine Gun Nest in Frederick County.
The indictment alleged Krop offered Jenkins political support in exchange for the fraudulent letters. It said the machine gun rentals led to more than $100,000 in profits in 2018 and 2019.
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But Jenkins’ attorneys now say the sheriff didn’t get anything of value, including political contributions, in exchange for the letters, and that he was never notified of when Krop or the gun business received the weapons. He assumed the ATF would analyze the paperwork and conduct an investigation of Krop if warranted, Jenkins’ motion said.
“Sheriff Jenkins’ entire role in this alleged conspiracy was to sign the letters put before him,” the filing said, after laying out that Krop would email draft letters to Jenkins’ secretary.
Krop’s attorneys, meanwhile, argue in lengthy legal filings that the government is going after Krop’s business “with apparent political vindictiveness” to try to remove the sheriff for political reasons.
Jenkins and Krop are together charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to interfere with government functions, false statements during a purchase of firearms, and false statements in records maintained by a federal firearms licensee. Krop additionally is charged with unlawful possession of seven machine guns.
Daniel Cox, Krop’s attorney and a recent Republican candidate for governor, writes that a “primary reason” for Krop’s business’s existence is the “lawful demonstration of machine guns including to his law enforcement and military memberships.” And he said the business did invite the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office to view demonstrations of machine guns.
The legal filing adds that Krop did not donate to Jenkins’ campaign or make any payments to him.
Krop is seeking a speedy trial, whereas Jenkins has sought additional time to go through the evidence turned over in discovery and to allow for “further discussions with the government about the case.”