Oklahoma man gets suspended sentence for bringing ammo to Turks and Caicos

A judge in the Turks and Caicos Islands on Friday sentenced an American tourist to a 13-week suspended sentence for bringing ammunition into the territory without prior police permission, according to the Bring Our Families Home Campaign.

Ryan Watson pleaded guilty last month to one count of possession of ammunition, according to KTUL and the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force. Under local law, he faced a minimum 12-year sentence.

A judge on Friday determined that sentencing Watson to 12 years in prison “would be ‘arbitrary,’” Jonathan Franks, a spokesperson for Bring Our Families Home Campaign, said in a series of social media posts. Watson was instead given a 13-week sentence suspended for nine months and fined $2,000 — $500 for each bullet found by authorities.

“We will make payment shortly, depart TCI and anticipate being home in OKC tonight,” Franks said.

Family members said Watson, a husband and father of two, was returning home to the U.S. after celebrating several friends’ 40th birthdays in April when airport authorities found four rounds of ammunition “unknowingly left in a duffel bag from a deer hunting trip.”

“I have no recollection of ever putting the ammunition in the bag,” Watson said in May, according to KTUL. “However, I do know there was a time back in the fall, whenever I was hunting deer in Texas, that I took the bag and had the riffle that uses that very specific ammunition with me on that trip. So, I’m only left to assume that the ammunition had fallen into the lining of the bag.”

His sentencing comes after a judge last month sentenced Virginia man Tyler Wenrich to time served and ordered he pay a $9,000 fine after he pleaded guilty to two counts of ammunition possession. Earlier, a judge gave Pennsylvania man Bryan Hagerich a 52-week suspended sentence and fined him $6,700 after authorities found hunting ammunition in his luggage.

Two other Americans are also facing similar charges: Sharitta Grier and Michael Lee Evans.

On Friday, Turks and Caicos officials said they are revising parts of the firearms law that led to the arrests, CNN reported. The amendment will do away with the 12-year minimum sentence for bringing firearms or ammunition into the territory without police permission and allow judges to impose a fine, a custodial sentence or both, according to the news network.

Last year, the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas warned people not to bring firearms, ammunition or other weapons into Turks and Caicos due to strict firearms laws and urged Americans to ask police or prison officials to “immediately” notify the U.S. Embassy if they are arrested or detained abroad.

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