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Oklahoma man sent to prison for smuggling guns to Kurdish freedom fighters

An Oklahoma gun smuggler was sentenced Wednesday to federal prison for shipping Glock pistols hidden in tools to Kurdish freedom fighters.

Randy Lew Williams, 57, agreed to send the guns after fighting with the Kurdish Peshmerga against the Islamic State.

"The atrocities I saw were horrible," he said at his sentencing in Oklahoma City federal court. "I wish I had said, 'No,' but I didn't. I felt obligated to help them out."

He apologized at the sentencing "to my family and the United States of America."

Prosecutors asked for 60 months in prison while his attorney sought time served or probation. U.S. District Judge Jodi Dishman gave him 40 months.

"We have to respect and abide by the rule of law in this country," the judge said. "You, however, took the law into your own hands."

Williams was working as a maintenance man at an Edmond apartment complex at the time of his arrest. He has spent more than a year in the Grady County jail and was among the inmates there who had COVID-19.

He went to Iraq in 2015 because he had been touched deeply by the inhumanity of the crisis there, his attorney, Julia Summers, told the judge in a sentencing memo.

"Understandably, the U.S. government does not support private citizens traveling to Iraq and elsewhere to participate in the battle against ISIS, due to the lack of control and the potential diplomatic quandary this could occasion," the assistant federal public defender wrote in the memo. "Nonetheless, the crisis has incited a morality-driven passion in a select few hundred or thousand to be part of the solution. In Iraq, Mr. Williams and the other foreign volunteers trained with Peshmerga fighters and fought alongside them against ISIS.

The defense attorney specifically argued that Williams did not send the guns to his "brothers-in-arms" out of greed.

He pleaded guilty last year to exporting the guns illegally in 2018, to making a false statement to an Oklahoma City gun dealer and to having an unregistered rifle in his Edmond apartment.

He came under suspicion after the shipment was intercepted in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He told the FBI at first he sent clothing but then admitted he sent the Glock parts. He told the FBI he threw away the parts after the package was returned to him in Oklahoma City. The FBI later found out from a tip that he gave them to a friend.

He also admitted to the FBI having sent two rifles to Iraq hidden with torque wrenches.

Prosecutors allege he also smuggled other Glock pistols to Iraq that went through. They point out he got $12,761 in wire transfers from "these same individuals" between Jan. 22, 2018, and Oct. 17, 2018.

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Nolan Clay

Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,... Read more ›