A Billings man admitted he illegally possessed a firearm after a sheriff’s deputy responded to a call at the Huntley Diversion Dam of men firing guns. Deputies seized numerous guns, including a sawed-off shotgun.
Eric Blaine Simpson, 49, pleaded guilty on Wednesday in U.S. District Court to being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was convicted of a felony in California in 1996 and prohibited from having firearms.
Prosecutor Bryan Whittaker said in court records that the incident happened on Sept. 21, 2013.
A Yellowstone County sheriff’s deputy responded to a call of two men firing weapons at the dam, a popular recreational site. The area is owned by the federal Bureau of Reclamation and has a large sign warning that only shotgun and archery hunting is allowed. No other shooting is permitted.
The deputy found a pickup truck registered to Daniel Harpold, who was there along with Simpson. The officer also saw numerous firearms on the tailgate and noticed the men had set up two targets, Whittaker said.
Simpson told the deputy he was test firing a .357 revolver he had purchased and whose serial number had been obliterated.
The deputy also saw a wooden butt stock of a firearm wrapped in a towel sticking out of a box in the back of the vehicle, Whittaker said. When Simpson removed the gun from the box, the deputy saw that it was a sawed-off shotgun. Simpson told the officer the shotgun was for home defense, the prosecutor said.
The deputy arrested Simpson and seized the firearms. Further investigation found that one of the guns, a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol, had been reported to the Billings Police Department as stolen in August 2013. The officer seized nine firearms.
Harpold also was indicted, although he later committed suicide, court records said.
Two other counts against Simpson are to be dismissed at sentencing under the terms of a plea agreement. Simpson faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters set sentencing for Nov. 6 and continued Simpson’s release.