Kenneth C. Crowe II
Times Union, Albany, N.Y.
A former U.S. Army drone operator and alleged militia member pleaded guilty Monday in Rensselaer County Court to possessing a “ghost gun” loaded with live ammunition during a local Black Lives Matter demonstration in June.
Noah Latham, 23, of Leominister, Mass., became the fifth man believed by law enforcement to have ties to the New England Minutemen to plead guilty to charges stemming from their actions on the day of the demonstration.
Latham appeared remotely and pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree criminal possession of a weapon before Judge Jennifer Sober.
Latham was a specialist assigned to the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum when he came to Troy on June 7. Latham was discharged from the division in August, an Army spokesman has said, although the Army has declined to disclosed what type of discharge Latham received.
Latham’s plea came the day that opening arguments began at the murder trial of former Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin, a white man whose killing of George Floyd on May 25 triggered months of civil rights protests locally and around the region. Chauvin is accused of kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes thereby causing his death.
The five defendants in Troy were spotted at the June 7 demonstration and tailed by police as they walked armed through the crowd of about 11,000 that gathered downtown to protest Floyd’s death. The men were taken into custody when they returned to their parked vehicles just blocks from the Troy police station.
Latham was the one member of the group who was not a Rensselaer County resident. He drove from Fort Drum to link up with the other four at the rally.
The rally was the largest in the Capital Region among the many racial justice and anti-police brutality demonstrations held across the country.
“I plead guilty,” Latham told Sober Monday morning.
He admitted to attempted possession of a 9 mm Glock-style pistol that had no serial number and that the weapon was loaded with live 9 mm ammunition.
Latham’s handgun was identified by authorities as a “ghost gun,” which is assembled from parts sold by companies that exploit a loophole in federal and state gun control laws by providing “unfinished” hardware with the drill bits and instructions — including video tutorials — needed to make a fully functioning firearm. Such weapons are assembled from parts and do not have serial numbers.
Latham entered his plea as part of a deal in which he will be sentenced May 25 to time served in custody and five years of post-release supervision. He also agreed to surrender all weapons confiscated by Troy police. Sober warned him that he could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison if he violates the terms of the agreement or the Rensselaer County Probation Department uncovers damaging information during its pre-sentencing investigation.
Shane Fleming of Averill Park and Shelbi Vanderbogart of Poestenkill pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a violation, according to the court files. They were fined $250, given a conditional discharge in which they must not be arrested for one year and surrendered seized weapons.
Shawn Fleming and Nathaniel Shepard, both of Averill Park, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor, according to court records. They were also given a conditional discharge, surrendered seized weapons and were fined $750.
Latham faced a felony charge of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, which carried a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison if he’d been convicted.
Latham and his four colleagues were identified as potentially having ties to a regional militia group, the New England Minutemen, based on a tactical manual recovered by Troy police, authorities said.
Troy police recovered rifles, ammunition magazines that hold up to 30 rounds and illegal police batons from vehicles belonging to the suspects on June 7.
After Latham was arrested in June, he was released with the condition that he wear a GPS monitoring device under the supervision of the Rensselaer County probation department and be confined to the Fort Drum military base.
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