Elkins man pleads guilty to gun charge

An Elkins man accused of growing marijuana and making methamphetamine after police found a large marijuana plant outside his residence last fall entered into a plea agreement Wednesday in federal magistrate court.

Velair Von Collins II, 41, of Elkins, pleaded guilty to one count of an information charging him with being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, a felony, in front of U.S. Magistrate John S. Kaull.

According to the terms of the agreement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Warner will make a motion to dismiss the federal indictment currently pending against Collins at his forthcoming sentencing hearing in federal court. Kaull explained the charges in the indictment only will be dismissed if U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey accepts the plea agreement, determines Collins is guilty and accepts Warner’s motion to dismiss.

In October 2012, Collins was named in a three-count federal indictment charging him with one count of maintaining a drug-involved premise in September 2012, one count of possession of material used in the manufacture of methamphetamine and one count of use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime on Sept. 4, 2012.

Collins turned himself in to Randolph County Magistrate Court several days after Cpl. C.D Cross with the Elkins Police Department discovered a 4- or 5-foot marijuana plant growing in a 5-gallon bucket near Collins’ residence on Sept. 4, 2012, according to previous reports. Police subsequently obtained a search warrant for Collins’ Diamond Street property and allegedly found the makings of a “shake-and-bake” meth lab, two guns and other drug paraphernalia inside his residence.

Warner filed the charge Collins pleaded guilty to in court Wednesday – being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm – based on information from Randolph County Circuit Court, which indicates he is a convicted felon. According to Circuit Court records, Warner told Kaull, Collins was convicted of driving under the influence, third offense, a felony, on Feb. 25, 2003. As a felon, Collins is legally forbidden from possessing a firearm. However. Warner said when police searched Collins’ residence Sept. 4, 2012, they found a Harrington & Richardson 12-gauge shotgun with no serial number and a Marlin .22-caliber rifle.

When Kaull asked Collins why he was pleading guilty, he answered, “because I had it (firearms) in my possession, sir.”

“I’m guilty of that crime and that crime only,” Collins said.

During Wednesday’s plea hearing, Warner told Kaull that he and Collins’ attorney, Brian Kornbrath, had “agreed to disagree” about whether or not Collins’ possession of the firearms was connected to the commission of another felony. Arguments to that end will be made during Collins’ sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Under federal law, the penalty for a conviction of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm is confinement in federal prison for up to 10 years, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised release.