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Former deputy pleads guilty to giving convicted felon bullets; One-time boxer faces prison term of up to two years


A former Baltimore sheriff's deputy and one-time local boxer pleaded guilty yesterday to giving bullets to a friend he knew was a convicted felon.

Lewis W. Benson, 43, a 20-year veteran of the sheriff's office who moonlighted as a professional boxer under the name "Baltimore's Battling Sheriff," pleaded guilty to one count of providing ammunition to a felon.

He could face up to two years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

.38-caliber ammunition

Benson gave five .38-caliber bullets to John T. Gilden, a longtime friend who had been convicted in 1974 of second-degree murder in Howard County, according to a statement of facts presented in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Benson was employed by the sheriff's department at the time.

Prosecutors said Benson gave Gilden the bullets at a Baltimore bar in October 1996.

Agents with the FBI learned about the bullets in summer 1998 while investigating Benson over loan sharking allegations, court papers said.

Secret recording

A cooperating witness who had borrowed money from Benson at an annual interest rate of over 300 percent agreed to secretly wear a tape-recording device at the Overlea Diner as part of the FBI investigation, court papers said.

During one of the recorded conversations, Benson is quoted as explaining that he gave the bullets to Gilden and that he understood that, as a convicted felon, Gilden was not allowed to have them.

Neither Benson nor his attorney, Roland Walker, would comment on the case yesterday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale P. Kelberman refused to comment on specifics of the case.

As a professional boxer, Benson had more than 25 fights in the cruiser and heavyweight divisions.

He also took on world title contenders of the 1980s, including Carl "The Truth" Williams and Jeff Sims, but he lost all of the bouts.

In 1992, he considered squaring off in a jailhouse match against former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, then jailed in Indiana for rape. But the fight was never held.

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