Plea agreement possible in gun-purchase charges

Woman accused of buying weapons for Palczynski pleads not guilty in court

April 01, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

An Essex woman charged with buying guns for Joseph C. Palczynski pleaded not guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore and might try to negotiate a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Constance Ann Waugh, 48, was arraigned yesterday before Magistrate Judge Beth P. Gesner on charges of violating firearms statutes by making false statements when she purchased guns for Palczynski on March 6. Police say he used the guns to kill four people.

Waugh, dressed in blue slacks and a blue jacket, appeared alert and responsive yesterday as she stood beside her lawyer, Richard H. Boucher Jr., and told Gesner that she understood the charges. She requested a jury trial.

Waugh appeared dazed and had trouble answering questions during her first court appearance on March 13. The judge ordered her then to undergo a psychological evaluation, which determined she was mentally competent to stand trial.

Boucher said a conviction on all four gun charges could bring up to 40 years in prison and that he would probably discuss a plea agreement before trial.

"The government and the defense are speaking about this case, and will continue to talk about it," he said. Boucher declined to comment further.

James Webster, an assistant U.S. attorney, told Gesner he expected the trial to take about two days. The case has been assigned to Judge Marvin J. Garbis; a trial date is expected to be set Monday.

An affidavit filed in the case says Palczynski came to Waugh's home March 6 and asked her to buy guns and ammunition for him, saying he wanted them for target practice. He told Waugh he couldn't purchase the weapons because of an assault conviction.

Palczynski drove Waugh to White Marsh Arms in White Marsh and The Gun Shop in Essex, where she made the purchases, the document says. He supplied her with a bill of sale for $1,600, according to the affidavit.

Waugh acknowledged buying the guns for Palczynski, telling agents of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms that she had known him since he was a child, according to the affidavit.

Waugh is charged with making false statements in the purchases, allegedly telling the dealers that the guns were gifts for her husband, said Agent Michael Campbell, a spokesman for the ATF.

Under federal law, it is legal to buy guns as gifts but illegal to buy them for a felon.

Waugh remains free on her own recognizance. She declined to comment yesterday. Boucher said, "She's been devastated by this whole series of events, and you can understand why."

Police say Palczynski killed three people March 7 when his estranged girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead, was abducted from a Bowleys Quarters apartment. Whitehead escaped the next night after a motorist was fatally shot during a carjacking attempt.

Palczynski remained at large 10 days, fleeing to Virginia before he shot his way into a Dundalk apartment, where he held Whitehead's mother, her mother's boyfriend and their 12-year-old son hostage.

The standoff ended March 21 when the mother and boyfriend slipped out a bedroom window, and police stormed the apartment, killing Palczynski and rescuing the boy.

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