A Billings man with a felony record will spend more than five years in federal prison for illegally possessing firearms.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters on Thursday sentenced Steven Neil Hopper, 29, to five years and 10 months, which was the low end of a guideline range, and ordered the term to run consecutive to a state sentence.
Although Hopper was charged with illegally having two firearms and ammunition, the judge held him responsible for six other firearms prosecutors said he attempted to sell to a confidential informant.
Hopper pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession in June. There was no plea agreement.
He previously was convicted of felony impersonating a public servant and felony robbery in February 2016. He received a partially suspended sentence in the state court and was revoked for violations.
In the state case, prosecutors said Hopper was caught by loss prevention officers at Rimrock Mall after he was spotted on surveillance going through J.C. Penny merchandise in a restricted area of the store.
Federal prosecutors said that on June 5, 2016, staff at a Laurel motel found two rifles, ammunition and drug paraphernalia while cleaning out Hopper’s room and called law enforcement.
During an interview with law enforcement in Wyoming a few days later, Hopper said he had found the two firearms in his motel room, handled them and wrapped them up. He told a Laurel police officer he had the only key to the room and that everything in there was his except the firearms and drug paraphernalia. He couldn’t explain how the firearms got into the motel room, prosecutors said.
Witnesses in the case said Hopper had two firearms when he stayed at a Billings motel, days before he moved to the Laurel motel, and that he possessed the same two firearms in his Laurel room.
The firearms included two .22 caliber semi-automatic rifles and 135 rounds of assorted ammunition.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paulette Stewart asked for a guideline sentence saying Hopper had an escalating criminal record, drug abuse issues and was trying to move a number of firearms.
Assistant Federal Defender Steve Babcock recommended a three-year sentence saying Hopper had taken responsibility for the two rifles. He said the other firearms were not recovered and not part of the indictment.
Hopper apologized and said he wanted to address his addiction issues and be a better person.