Proud Boys member gets 7-year term for federal gun crimes in Albany – Albany Times Union

proud-boys-member-gets-7-year-term-for-federal-gun-crimes-in-albany-–-albany-times-union

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ALBANY — Jonathan Cuney is a combat Marine, Purple Heart recipient and father of four children.

The former East Greenbush man is also a convicted gun trafficker, maker of “ghost guns” and, according to federal prosecutors in Albany, a member of the Proud Boys, a far-right nationalist group.

The 38-year-old Iraq war veteran's affiliation with the Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a hate group, was highlighted in a prosecutor’s sentencing memo to Senior U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullin. The judge sentenced Cuney Thursday for the defendant’s guilty plea earlier this year to unlawfully possessing guns. As a felon — in 2015, Cuney was convicted of federal gun possession in White Plains after selling guns to an undercover agent — Cuney was prohibited from possessing a firearm. 

"The defendant describes his involvement with the Proud Boys as limited to: ‘hanging out with the boys at bars’ and ‘talking about politics’ in the Troy and Schenectady areas,'"  Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett told the judge in a sentencing memo that asked Scullin to impose a 63-month prison term (just over five years) on Cuney, followed by three years of supervised federal release.

But Scullin went further, ordering Cuney to serve 87 months in prison, going two years beyond the amount prosecutors asked for.

More than two dozen Proud Boys took part in the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., when enraged followers of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress prepared to certify President Joseph Biden's election victory over Trump. On the same day in Albany, Proud Boys associates and a least one self-described member of antifa, a loosely affiliated anti-fascist group, clashed outside the state Capitol. A Trump supporter was stabbed multiple times and underwent emergency surgery to repair an eviscerated bowel.

Barnett said Cuney joined the Proud Boys in 2018, receiving an initiation tattoo that depicts an eagle with a beer and a rifle in its talons.   "Of note," Barnett wrote, "the defendant’s only other tattoos relate to his military service."

The prosecutor said Cuney, noting his Hispanic heritage, said the Proud Boys, founded in 2016, had become increasingly racist and violent, which motivated him to step away from them. But Barnett was doubtful of Cuney's claims. The prosecutor said the Proud Boys were already a notorious hate group when Cuney joined and has Hispanic members, including its leader, Enrique Tarrio.

"There is no indication, beyond (Cuney's) self-serving statement, that he actually left the group, ever," Barnett said in the memo.

Barnett described Cuney as intelligent, personable, passionate and well-educated but said Cuney had no interest in abiding by the law.

"The defendant is an unapologetic criminal hiding behind his military service record," he said.

In June, Cuneo pleaded guilty to possessing a rifle, parts for an AR-15 and three unregistered silencers between Sept 9, 2019, and Nov. 14, 2019. It resolved gun charges Cuneo faced in Arizona, Missouri and New York, where Cuney kept firearms and ammunition in an East Greenbush storage facility. Investigators found two rifles, a revolver, two ghost guns (so named because they lack serial numbers making it difficult for law enforcement to trace) and 3,250 rounds of  ammunition.

Cuney, a former legal gun dealer, additionally kept 13 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition in a California storage facility as well as a pair of handcuffs, 56 single-cuff restraints and badges, patches and hats bearing the insignias and acronyms of the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, prosecutors said. 

In a letter to the judge, Cuney acknowledged he “undeniably broke the law and accept full responsibility for my actions.” 

Cuney said he grew up outside New Paltz and, at 13, got his first job in the town’s only gun shop. There, he said, he would listen to war veterans tell their stories. He said it instilled a sense of patriotism, a love of guns and staunchly conservative political views.

“It was truly a magical place for me as an impressionable boy,” Cuney said.  “I would often times hang out there even while not at work for fear I may miss out on something.” 

Cuney was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during combat in Fallujah in Iraq. He spotted a grenade tossed by an insurgent, warned fellow Marines to clear the area that they were defending, but fire from a machine gun kept Cuney from escaping. The grenade detonated, sending Cuney down stairs. He suffered shrapnel and flesh wounds, John Calcagni, Cuney's attorney, said in a defense sentencing memo.

Cuney told the judge he lost friends to death and injury in Iraq, that he returned to the U.S. and witnessed more devastation and mayhem as a military contractor during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He said he later went into the arms business but made “very irresponsible, reckless and inexcusable poor choices” in response to the New York Safe Act gun control law. 

He said after he left prison, he went around the country and to Africa to find work but had trouble finding it with a record and being disabled. He was "lost," he said. He said he wanted to finish college, attend law school and work to overturn the law that felons cannot own firearms. He has a 1-year-old daughter, he said, who he is still yet to see.

Calcagni sent a sentencing memo to the judge asking for time served.

"Mr. Cuney respects the law. He fought for this country, to defend its many constitutional principles, which include due process

and the rule of law," Calcagni said. "Mr. Cuney also believes his actions in this case, opposed to his crimes of the

past, were within the letter of the law. He was mistaken and has learned his lesson!"

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