AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — A man accused of posing as a uniformed Army soldier at a Georgia military base in a ruse that got him access to high-tech gear pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of impersonating a soldier and two federal gun crimes.
Anthony Todd Saxon, 35, of Keysville entered his plea in U.S. District Court in Augusta after cutting a deal with federal prosecutors, who agreed to drop four other charges related to Saxon's arrest last June at nearby Fort Gordon.
Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. said he will sentence Saxon at a later date
Saxon's attorney, Danny Durham, said his client never intended to harm anyone by pretending to be a soldier.
"He hurt himself and he hurt his family, and he's admitted to that," Durham said as he left the courthouse.
U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver noted that not only did Saxon impersonate a soldier to gain access to a military base, but he also had several firearms at home despite being prohibited from owning guns by a prior felony conviction.
Tarver said in a statement his office "will continue to do its part to protect the safety of the community and the security of our soldiers and military installations by prosecuting individuals like Mr. Saxon."
Authorities say Saxon moved his family to Georgia in late 2009 under the guise that he'd gotten a job with the Army at Fort Gordon. Neighbors often saw him in uniform. And just before his arrest last June, prosecutors say, Saxon's wife and family believed he was on the verge of deploying to Afghanistan.
However, Saxon acknowledged to a judge Wednesday that his three years of military service ended in 1994, when the Florida National Guard discharged him for a congenital heart condition.
Saxon wore an Army combat uniform with the rank and insignia of a master sergeant to Fort Gordon at least 10 times last year, prosecutors say. During one visit, according to court records, he fooled a soldier into giving him a laser-targeting sight for a rifle.
Prosecutors say Saxon had a live anti-personnel mine at the time of his arrest, though a bomb squad blew it up before investigators could get a close look. Authorities later found an assault rifle equipped with a stolen silencer and other guns at Saxon's home.
Besides the charge of impersonating a soldier, Saxon pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm and a silencer. Saxon can't legally own guns because he was convicted on grand theft charges in Florida in 1996.
The three charges carry a maximum sentence of 23 years in prison, but Saxon's guilty plea is expected to earn him a lighter sentence. The charges don't have mandatory minimum sentences.
Prosecutors agreed to drop charges against Saxon of theft of government property, theft of a firearm, illegal possession of a rifle with a shortened barrel and illegal possesion of explosives.
FBI agent Jason Gustin told the judge Wednesday Saxon was never employed by Fort Gordon or the Army. He said Saxon's family told investigators last June they believed he was days away from deploying with the Army to Afghanistan.
Saxon's wife, Rhonda Saxon, declined to comment as she left the courthouse Wednesday wiping tears from her eyes.