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TV Helicopter Pilot Convicted in Gun Sale

Courts: Bob Pettee is found guilty of selling firearms altered to be fully automatic. He will be sentenced in July.

April 23, 2002|DAVID ROSENZWEIG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Former KNBC Channel 4 helicopter pilot Bob Pettee was convicted by a federal jury in Los Angeles on Monday of selling two illegally altered weapons through an intermediary to an undercover federal agent.

After deliberating more than two days, the jury found Pettee guilty on two counts of unlawful transfer of a machine gun and one count of possession of an unregistered firearm.

"I certainly believe it's the wrong verdict," Pettee, 51, said as he left the courthouse with his lawyer, Charles T. Mathews.

Pettee, who remains free on bail, is to be sentenced July 29 by U.S. District Judge Lourdes G. Baird.

Taking the stand in his own defense, Pettee denied altering the weapons so they could be used as rapid-firing machine guns. He put the blame on a onetime friend, Jeff Miller, who pleaded guilty in the case and is awaiting sentencing.

Pettee, a former Vietnam helicopter pilot, said he bought a 9-millimeter Heckler and Koch pistol and an AR-15 rifle as collector's items about 10 years ago. Both guns were not altered while in his possession, he said.

After learning last year that KNBC was not going to renew his contract, Pettee said, he embarked on some belt-tightening, which included selling the two guns.

Miller, he said, took the weapons and promised to sell them to a licensed gun dealer he knew. After being contacted, however, the gun dealer notified the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which set up a sting. Miller was arrested when he accepted $5,000 for the weapons in a Van Nuys parking lot Aug. 20.

Assistant U.S. Atty Robert Stacy said both guns were altered to be fully automatic and that the barrel of the AR-15 rifle was shortened in violation of federal law.

Miller testified during the trial that Pettee had told him the weapons were fully automatic and unregistered. Pettee's ex-wife also testified that he had told her the weapons were illegal. The defense accused both witnesses of lying.

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