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Defense worker pleads guilty to bringing loaded gun onto MacDill

TAMPA — A former Army Ranger who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder pleaded guilty on Monday to a charge that he tried to bring a loaded handgun and 300 rounds of ammunition onto MacDill Air Force Base last summer.

In a plea agreement, prosecutors are recommending to a federal judge that Scott Harkenreader, 49, be sentenced to a year of supervised release, surrender the gun, undergo psychiatric care and not return to MacDill.

Harkenreader, who worked on the base as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, is scheduled to be sentenced March 29.

A judge is not obligated to follow the recommendation. The charge is a misdemeanor, carrying a maximum sentence of no more than one year in prison.

Harkenreader's attorney, Paul Sisco, told a judge at a hearing in U.S. District Court that the defense was ready to take the case to trial and thought he might have a good case to present to jurors. For one thing, Sisco said, MacDill warnings about what items are prohibited onto the base are unclear and "vague."

Sisco also noted that his client suffers from PTSD, though Magistrate Judge Anthony Porcelli said he was competent to stand trial.

A MacDill spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment.

"He would have chosen to try the case if the government recommended even an hour of jail time," Sisco told Porcelli.

The judge said he was inclined to follow the government's recommendation of a year's supervised release, but first wants to see a presentencing report.

Harkenreader, a veteran of Grenada and other U.S. military campaigns, and his attorney declined to comment after the plea hearing.

Harkenreader has been on unpaid and indefinite suspension with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Harkenreader, who retired from the Army in 2003 after 20 years of service, told Porcelli he was anxious to resolve his case so he can again get back his security clearance.

"I'd like to get my clearance back and return to work in some other place," he said.

Prosecutors said MacDill security personnel had been issued an alert to be on the lookout for Harkenreader after they received a report that he was bringing a weapon onto the base. He was stopped on Aug. 1 when trying to enter MacDill.

Prosecutors said a gun was found within Harkenreader's reach, and the ammunition was discovered in a storage compartment of his pickup.

Harkenreader had a license to carry a concealed gun and had been trained in its use, but such licenses are not valid on military property without prior consent.

Reach William R. Levesque at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.

Defense worker pleads guilty to bringing loaded gun onto MacDill 02/27/12 [Last modified: Monday, February 27, 2012 11:32pm]
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