COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina man has pleaded guilty to buying guns for an acquaintance who shot seven people to death, admitting he made the purchases despite knowing that the killer had a previous felony conviction and couldn't legally have the weapons.
Dustan Lawson could face hundreds of years in prison when he is sentenced at a later date. Each of the 36 weapons charges to which he pleaded guilty on Wednesday carry up to 10 years in prison. But his actual sentence will likely be far less.
Lawson admitted buying at least 12 guns and five silencers from 2012 to 2016, saying they were for himself when he was actually giving them to Todd Kohlhepp.
Kohlhepp, 47, killed four people in a Spartanburg County motorcycle shop in 2002 and three more people on his property 13 years later. They were all shot.
Kohlhepp told Lawson he was a felon after a sex crime conviction in Arizona when he was a teen, and Lawson may have also known some information about Kohlhepp's South Carolina crimes, prosecutors have said in court papers.
Kohlhepp is serving a life sentence without parole after pleading guilty to seven counts of murder in 2017.
Lawson pleaded guilty to 13 counts of making a false statement to purchase a gun, 13 counts of transferring a firearm to a felon, five counts of transferring a silencer device to a person not allowed to have one and five counts of making a false statement to obtain a silencer. His lawyer, Benjamin Stepp, said in an email Thursday that he had nothing to say about the case.
Kohlhepp was arrested in November 2016 when a woman he kidnapped was found chained in a storage container at his Spartanburg County home. He made it easy on investigators to identify who helped him obtain his guns. Hours after his arrest, Kohlhepp told investigators in a taped interview "you may want to seriously talk to Dustan Lawson and give him a heads up."
Kohlhepp later in the interview described Lawson as stupid, using a curse word, and "a 32-year-old lazy kid who never had a daddy."
Kohlhepp was barred from having guns because he was a convicted felon. He moved to South Carolina in 2001 after spending 14 years in prison for kidnapping in Arizona. Authorities there said that the then-15-year-old forced a 14-year-old neighbor back to his home at gunpoint, tied her up and raped her.
Lawson said little in federal court Wednesday in Greenville except answering yes and no questions from the judge, news outlets reported.
Kohlhepp killed the boyfriend of the woman found chained in the container and another couple in December 2015. He also admitted killing four people inside a motorcycle shop in 2002.
Families of Kohlhepp's victims are urging a stiff sentence for Lawson because he knew he was buying guns for a dangerous man.
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