A former college football player from Virginia was sentenced to more than a year in prison after buying and selling dozens of guns — including some used in shootings and homicides across the U.S. — without a license, federal prosecutors said.
He is accused of telling agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that “guns are like money” and “I sell to anybody” during an interview amid the federal investigation, according to court documents.
Kevin Staton Jr., the 24-year-old of Chesapeake, will serve an 18-month prison term after buying and reselling 45 guns between June 2019 and June 2020 and making false statements on official ATF forms, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a July 6 news release.
Of the 45 guns he bought, 15 were linked to crime scenes nationwide, including a May 2020 incident when several people were shot, court documents state.
“Kevin never intended to put guns in the hands of individuals that would use them in crimes,” his attorney Jon Babineau told McClatchy News in a statement.
Babineau said his client “unfortunately exploited a firearm purchasing system in Virginia, which prior to the enactment of legislation last year permitted unlimited handgun purchases by an individual monthly.”
However, prosecutors said Staton lied on the ATF forms he filled out when purchasing the weapons, which he bought from locations including Dick’s Sporting Goods and gun shops in Virginia . He declared that he was the true buyer, when prosecutors said he was buying them for others.
“When I first turned twenty-one, I was buying guns just to sell them,” he told ATF agents on June 2, 2020 after they found him with six guns, according to court documents.
In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors wrote that “because of the unintended consequences of his actions — it can be argued that people are dead because of firearms he purchased and sold.”
“He also knew that he could sell guns at a marked-up price for prohibited individuals, when he stated, ‘people are so dumb.’”
Fourteen of the weapons were found at crime scenes less than one year after Staton sold them, court documents state. Prosecutors said that these guns would occasionally end up in the hands of convicted felons, according to the news release.
His attorney told McClatchy News that Staton “has no prior involvement with law enforcement and many of his firearm purchases were lawful.”
“He is extremely remorseful and has accepted full responsibility for any false statement he made on ATF firearm forms, as to the intended transferee of firearms purchased.”
Staton played in the all-American bowl as a high school senior, when he was ranked as #98 top guard by ESPN, and received a full ride scholarship to play at San Diego State University before switching course to play at Norfolk State University, Babineau noted. He did so to “help care for his special needs younger brother.”
In 2016, he redshirted his freshman year at Norfolk State University.
On June 30, a week before his sentencing, several letters were written to a judge in support of Staton by his family and friends, including two NFL players who have played for the Detroit Lions.
“Kevin honestly tried his best to put himself in a situation to make sure he was doing things legally…I just ask you to truly look at the character of a man by his actions, not by the ignorance of a dumb mistake,” Bobby Price, who went to college with Staton and is a defensive back for the Detroit Lions, wrote to the judge.
Babineau told McClatchy News that Staton has plans to become a pediatrician and is in the process of finishing his master’s and nursing degrees.
His prison term will be “followed by two years of supervised release,” the news release said.
“Purchasing firearms for people other than yourself can yield deadly consequences,” ATF Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson said in a statement.
Chesapeake is roughly 10 miles south of Norfolk, Virginia.