A decorated Vietnam veteran and firearms collector was sentenced to seven years in federal prison on Wednesday, Oct. 17, for a decades-old purchase of a rifle.
Alfred Pick, 70, purchased a fully automatic M14, which is illegal to own, at a Fort Worth gun show in the early 1980s, KDFW-TV (CBS11) reported.
Pick’s lawyer said that for the army veteran, the weapon had sentimental value.
"I would think that when a man turned 70 and is an American hero you don’t destroy the rest of his life for one mistake."
“This gun was very rare. At that time it was rare to see one so he instantly had a connection to it,” said Pick’s attorney Ryne Sandel, according to the report. “Over the course of his life he and his wife had collected about 14 weapons, many of them were collectors’ items.”
The rifle resembled the one Pick used as an Army lieutenant in Vietnam, where he earned a Silver Star after participating in more than 100 combat missions and his brief time as a POW.
“The man is a Silver Star winner, he saved lives, he took care of his wife, he’s been in custody for a year, I would think that when a man turned 70 and is an American hero you don’t destroy the rest of his life for one mistake,” Mark Shackelford, a friend, told KDFW-TV.
Shackelford called the weapon the “pièce de résistance” of Pick’s collection, and said, “He had shown it to me. I’ve never seen it taken out of the case.”
The M14, however, had its serial number scratched out.
Last year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents raided Pick’s Plano, Texas, looking for the rifle. The raid on the man’s home came two weeks after his wife died of cancer.
“He’s had it all these years, never robbed a bank or done anything with it,” Shackleford said. “I would think that when a man turned 70 and is an American hero, you don’t destroy the rest of his life for one mistake.”
Pick’s friends came to court to support him as he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 87 months in prison. District Judge Marcia A. Crone handed down the sentence, according to CBS DFW.
Shackelford lamented the severity of his friend’s punishment.
“Somebody that made one mistake,” he said, “and now 50 years later he’s paying a really big price for it.”
Some Vietnam veterans, however, said Pick should have known better since the rifle’s serial had been removed.